Tuesday 27 September 2016

This video is the perfect reminder that we're a year away from watching rugby's toughest challenge

Tom Rooney

Published 03/06/2016 | 20:48

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 06: Brian O'Driscoll (R) and Paul O'Connell of the Lions raise Tom Richards Cup after their victory during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium on July 6, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 06: Brian O'Driscoll (R) and Paul O'Connell of the Lions raise Tom Richards Cup after their victory during the International Test match between the Australian Wallabies and British & Irish Lions at ANZ Stadium on July 6, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

With the summer tests getting underway next week it feels like a lifetime away, but exactly one year from today the British and Irish Lions will begin their 10-match tour of New Zealand against Provincial Union.

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The countdown has begun, or so we’re being told. Even without a head coach in place the people in the Lions’ marketing office have kicked their promotional assault into to gear.

It’s been 11 long years since the All Blacks whitewashed the men in red by 3-0 in a series that is still best remembered for Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu driving Brian O’Driscoll into the Christchurch earth like a dart, thus ending the captain's tour.

To be fair, O’Driscoll’s presence would have done little to prevent the near-unplayable home nation from prevailing. Clive Woodward’s bloated and segregated squad didn’t help matters either. But really, Dan Carter just couldn't be stopped.

If anything, New Zealand peaked too early ahead of the 2007 World Cup, where they capitulated spectacularly.

Four years later the Paul O’Connell-led party were brutalised by South Africa in the first two tests, the second of which may go down as the most ferocious game ever. The Lions did win the third contest but by then the victory was nothing more than a consolation.

Finally fours ago, Warren Gatland’s charges beat a ragged Australian outfit by 2-1 in a forgettable series, the first the Lions had clinched since overcoming South Africa in 1997.

Since the All Blacks retained the World Cup last October, they’ve been eerily quiet. Wales are their guests over the next month and the series will give us a good indication of what to expect from a side now without Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu.

Chances are they’ll be breath-taking.

The first Test next year is scheduled for June 24 at Eden Park, before the final two on July 1 and 8.

The video below is stirring montage of tours gone by both on and off the pitch.

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