Tuesday 12 December 2017

Jonny Wilkinson tells the British and Irish Lions to keep attacking New Zealand

Jonny Wilkinson won the World Cup with England in 2003
Jonny Wilkinson won the World Cup with England in 2003

Jonny Wilkinson believes the British and Irish Lions must look to their wonder try in the first Test against New Zealand when devising their gameplan for the second instalment of the series.

Sean O'Brien completed one of the great moments in the tourists' rich history when he finished a sweeping length of the field score initiated by Liam Williams.

The Lions fell prey to Steve Hansen's ruthless All Blacks despite the try, succumbing 30-15 at Eden Park, and they must prevail on Saturday if they are to take the series to a decider.

In addition to employing the type of suffocating defence that was so effective against the Crusaders and Maori, Wilkinson insists that only by removing the shackles from his players in attack can Warren Gatland engineer a famous victory.

"For me it's about freeing guys up rather than giving them a tighter gameplan," Vitality ambassador Wilkinson told Press Association Sport.

"Tactically, the Lions need to be very strong in defence, making more solid tackles and executing as ruthlessly as possible, while in attack they need to let players go.

"The most amazing piece of play in the entire first Test was O'Brien's try, which was phenomenal, and that came from letting the players be what they're great at.

"Ask Liam Williams at full-back and Elliot Daly on the wing what are they great at, and let them do it.

"If you can support a defence that says nothing is getting through with an attack that says anything is possible, it's on.

"They'll have to be incredibly excited by this game and going after what they want - it can't be a case of just trying to hold New Zealand out."

The Lions enter the second Test as 4/1 underdogs but Wilkinson, who won six caps for the elite of British and Irish rugby on their 2001 and 2005 tours, is convinced they can overcome the world champions.

To do so, however, England's World Cup-winning fly-half insists only an "inspired" performance will suffice.

"The Lions definitely have a chance, but they will have to play at an inspired level for the majority of the game," Wilkinson said.

"And for the moments when they're not at that inspired level, they'll have to be ridiculously solid and incredibly professional.

"It's not about being inspired and then burning themselves out, have five or 10 tough minutes and then getting back to being inspired again.

"There is not a team in the world that can beat the All Blacks without being at their absolute best.

"Also, can they catch New Zealand if they're not at their absolute best? But that hardly ever happens because they are so efficient at the moment."

Verbal exchanges between Gatland and All Blacks coach Hansen have been a feature of the tour, reaching their most heated in the wake of the first Test.

Hansen branded Gatland "desperate" after his rival accused New Zealand of deliberately targeting Lions scrum-half Conor Murray, one first-half challenge by Jerome Kaino provoking the greatest angst.

Gatland was mocked up as a clown by a newspaper and the Wales boss has also been criticised for not using his replacements bench in Tuesday's draw with the Hurricanes, revealing he did not bring on the 'Geography Six' due to the outcry over their call-up to the tour based on location and not ability.

"The mind games are interesting and they make for one hell of a spectacle. In terms of how much of it gets filtered down to the players, it all does," Wilkinson said.

"You hear everything, but what's key is the filter the players will put on the information themselves. If players need to find an enemy to be better at the weekend, then they can do that.

"Having seen a photo (of Kaino's challenge on Murray), who knows if Murray was targeted? The only people who can give you their truths are Murray and New Zealand.

"On the replacements, rugby players love playing, they don't want to just be there. If you're there but not playing, I imagine it has a feeling of emptiness."

As an Ambassador for health and life insurer Vitality, Jonny Wilkinson uses his passion for healthy living to inspire everyone to be active and make positive changes to their lifestyle. Visit www.vitality.co.uk.

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