Wellington — The deciding third Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park on Saturday will be like playing in a World Cup final and the British and Irish Lions are keen to ensure they do not get swept up in the emotion of the game.
The Lions head into the match riding a wave of confidence after their 24-21 victory at Wellington Regional Stadium that levelled the three-match series at 1-1.
Assistant coach Neil Jenkins says the Lions know they have to play the game of their lives to beat the All Blacks, who won the first Test at Eden Park 30-15.
"Look, we know what’s coming. They’re incredibly good. We know that," Jenkins said in Queenstown, where the team has been based since Sunday.
"Very rarely do they lose and very rarely do they lose at home, so everything is on the line. It’s the series decider, World Cup final if you like … it’s a humongous game. We know how hard it’s going to be."
The only Lions team to beat New Zealand in a series was Carwyn James’s 1971 vintage, and if this crop are to repeat that success, they will have to overcome the All Blacks at a venue in which they have not lost since 1994, to France.
Last Saturday’s defeat in Wellington was the All Blacks’ first home loss since 2009. The last time they lost two in a row at home was 1998, when they were beaten 13-3 by the Springboks in Wellington and 27-23 by the Wallabies the following week in Christchurch.
New Zealand were in the middle of a huge rebuild that year, having lost several veteran players including captain Sean Fitzpatrick and loose forward Zinzan Brooke, and they lost five successive games.
Lions hooker Jamie George said they had to put all thoughts of history and records out of their minds and simply play the game on Saturday.
"We cannot get carried away with the emotional side of the game," he said.
"We have got to make sure that physically, we are on it, mentally we are on it, that we know our stuff and we can go into the game with clear heads and really attack it, because sometimes you can get overawed by the whole occasion.
"Thinking about making history and all that, I don’t think we can think about it. We just think about play by play, minute by minute."