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Thursday 20 July 2017

Defence will be key against free-scoring All Blacks, says Andy Farrell

Andy Farrell accepts that defence will be "a massive part" of the British and Irish Lions' game as they prepare to tackle world champions New Zealand.

Lions assistant coach Farrell, who helped plot Ireland's victory over the All Blacks in Chicago last November, is in charge of that key aspect.

And he knows how big a challenge lies ahead across the three-Test series, given New Zealand's try-scoring prowess.

"We all know the strike-rate of the All Blacks as far as their attacking game is concerned," he said, as the Lions concluded their second pre-tour training camp in County Kildare.

"Their try-scoring record is fantastic. I think last year it was double the team in second place for tries scored, which says a lot about their type of game.

"Their percentage conversion rate is fantastic, so we know defence is going to be a massive part of our game if we are going to have a chance in the series."

Lions training numbers were boosted to 30 from 14 after last week's training get-together in Wales, and Farrell is delighted with the quality of work done building towards next week's tour opener against a New Zealand Provincial Barbarians XV in Whangarei.

"We expected a few less numbers than what we've had," Farrell added.

"We have been able to create more advancement with our plan, going forward. To get a few more half-backs in and organisation stuff with the ball in hand has been great for us.

"The intensity was there, as you would expect, and the competition was there, as you would expect.

"When you get the calibre of player that we've had come in, and everyone is trying to show how much homework they've done with the new systems, then you see people come to the forefront and the leadership coming out in people.

"What tends to happen in this type of environment, because of the class of player you are working with, they tend to get it very quickly.

"We've got a few ideas and combinations in our head already (for next week).

"We would be a fool not to use the bulk of the players who have been training over the past couple of weeks because they have got a head start, but that's not to say that one or two of the other guys can't sneak their way in there.

"What's great about this environment is there is no time to think about anything else other than the task in hand.

"We are dealing with the best of the best.

"We have still got a few guys missing, and a few things to fit in. You have got to get the basics right first of all, then build throughout the tour.

"We've had 30 players in this week, and the intensity has been at a different level. The quality has been exceptional so far, and that only helps with our preparation.

"This morning's session, we tried to disorientate the players a little bit, put them in pressure situations, difficult scenarios, and they handled it very calmly under extreme pressure. The quality has been outstanding."

Wigan-born Farrell, meanwhile, spoke of his sense of shock following the Manchester Arena bombing on Monday.

"It is absolutely devastating," he said. "I am from the area, 20 miles up the road.

"I have been to that concert place with my kids many times, and you would never expect anything like that to happen.

"Our hearts and our prayers massively go out to the people of Manchester.

"You just know the people that live in the area will all pull together and unite."

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