The British & Irish Lions will face tough battles no matter who they face in the land of the long white cloud in two years time, according to former New Zealand resident Paul Doran Jones.
After finishing up at Trinity College in Dublin, a fresh-faced Doran Jones travelled to New Zealand as he enjoyed a spell with local club side King Country.
Despite being in the Leinster Academy at the time, Doran Jones admits it was with King Country where he really grew and matured as a front rower.
And it clearly had an affect with the 29-year-old able to boast the likes of Leinster, Wasps, Gloucester, Northampton Saints, Harlequins and England on his CV.
The British & Irish Lions will get a taste of this atmosphere when they take on midweek sides while battling against the All Blacks in 2017.
And Doran Jones is warning the next crop of stars that they need to be ready for what awaits.
“I was flown out from Dublin, landed in New Zealand in a bit of a blur and was taken to a place called Te Kuiti, a tiny little town, a sort of blink and you’ll miss it place,” said Doran Jones, speaking in support of the Aviva Tackling Numbers programme.
“I was in the Leinster Academy at the time and it was difficult to get game-time which was frustrating – I felt myself growing up and not playing as much.
“So it was great to get out there and experience a different culture, a different life experience and one that was so starkly different to where I had come from.
“Playing every week in tough competition that was really physical with guys who just work hard, you saw what it was all about.
“Some of the guys were semi-pro, so they were doing it out of love for the game and sometimes I think you can lose that in a professional environment, so I really enjoyed it – it was great.
“I know those midweek games will be tough for the British & Irish Lions. King Country fell into the Waikato Chiefs province, so I was fortunate enough to train with them for a bit.
“I wasn’t there long enough to try and break into that but that would have been the aim. They’re fantastic and the way they go about the game should be embraced.
“But it will be very tough for the Lions – the likes of Canterbury always provide tricky midweek games, especially in New Zealand.”