Warren Gatland wants Lions to make themselves known to New Zealand public
Warren Gatland believes his British and Irish Lions can ambush an unsuspecting New Zealand public in the fast-approaching Test series against the All Blacks.
Head coach Gatland admitted no surprise on learning that 78 per cent of Kiwis quizzed in a recent poll could not name a single Lions tourist.
All Blacks' disinterest in opponents is nothing new and hardly harms their approach - Brodie Retallick called Courtney Lawes Michael when challenged to name an England player in 2014, but New Zealand still won that Test series.
Gatland now hopes the Lions can catch the New Zealand public cold across a series the home faithful fully expect to claim with ease.
Asked if the Lions can shock the whole country of New Zealand, Gatland said: "That's hopefully the whole plan.
"I see the tour in two parts: everything up to the Maori game and then everything post that.
"If we can go and play some good rugby and make people stand up and take a little bit of notice it's going to create even more interest.
"Maybe when the 30,000 Lions supporters arrive and they do the poll again the number might go up.
"I'm hugely excited about it. I know everyone has written us off and that's a nice position to be in."
Asked to comment on such polls underscoring the Kiwi public's lack of knowledge on the Lions, New Zealander Gatland said: "You've got to be very careful about what you say.
"As a Kiwi, if you're critical of New Zealand, how isolated we are, you get absolutely smashed, so you keep your mouth shut. It probably sums things up, you know.
"If we leave the tour and we've made an impression, that would be pretty positive. I'm not sure a lot of people in New Zealand watch the Pro12, the Aviva Premiership or even the Six Nations and as a result you don't know too many of the players.
"There'll be a lot of players in the northern hemisphere who think Dan Carter is still playing for the All Blacks.
"In the past the All Blacks have tended to concentrate on themselves, they haven't worried too much about who they're playing against.
"They've never really worried about us in terms of the way they've prepared. That's completely up to them. I know we'll do our homework."
Ireland star Johnny Sexton has first refusal on the Lions' number 10 shirt, but Gatland revealed the Leinster pivot needs a top performance this weekend.
"Johnny's been great; he knows he needs to get some games under his belt," said Gatland of Sexton.
"The three 10s came in together but we felt Johnny needed to start this first game, get some rugby under his belt and get off to a good start - hopefully for the team but himself as well because he hasn't played a huge amount of rugby.
"He knows that the competition is pretty fierce in that position, but he's a competitor and that's what has made him one of the best 10s in world rugby. I've got no doubt he'd want a good performance from himself on Saturday.
"His first concern I think was who's going to do the goal kicking, because Greig (Laidlaw) is obviously a quality goal kicker as well. But Neil Jenkins told him he is.
"He is confident and happy enough with that decision. He needs to go out there and hopefully perform well."
Gatland insists the Lions must prize winning Saturday's tour opener against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians over claiming a statement triumph.
The Lions boss' son Bryn will square up against his dad in Whangarei this weekend, and also directly face Sexton, after taking the fly-half role for the Barbarians.
"The statement, first of all is a win," said Gatland.
"In 2009 we struggled in that first game. It will be hard on these players and the weather will play a part.
"We will go out there and give a good performance. They will be hugely up for it and have half a dozen players who are involved in Super Rugby squads."