British and Irish Lions player George North tackles Maori All Blacks player James Lowe. Picture: REUTERS
clash of the titans - British and Irish Lions player George North tackles Maori All Blacks player James Lowe. Picture: REUTERS

The first Test between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions is the most keenly anticipated rugby match since the 2015 World Cup final‚ and statistically the tourists don’t have a chance.

The slow build-up to the Saturday’s big game at Eden Park has been enthralling‚ filled with ups and downs for the tourists.

The narrative of scaling impossible odds has slowly given way to a genuine belief that there is faint hope of an upset by the tourists.

Series’ of this nature are an anachronism in the modern era‚ yet the Lions trudge through New Zealand over the past three weeks has sent a reminder that tours‚ with provincial matches‚ are still relevant and enthralling.

The tour takes on a life of its own‚ with each match part of jigsaw for the Lions‚ as they piece together a team coach Warren Gatland and his assistants hope will be good enough to beat the All Blacks.

There is no tougher assignment than trying to beat the All Blacks these days. It was always difficult for opponents‚ but with each passing year it becomes harder.

There is a feeling that the Lions are heading towards an All Black-shaped cliff and they are about to fall off it without parachutes or safety lines.

New Zealand rugby is well ahead of the chasing the pack‚ and it’s no wonder that only the best players from four countries combined‚ appear to be piecing together a team‚ at the very least‚ capable of giving the mighty All Blacks a decent fight at home.

The Lions will be best served not looking at statistics before the Test series starts because it would do nothing for morale.

Starting with the obvious – the Lions' own record in New Zealand.

In 38 Tests against the All Blacks‚ the Lions have lost 29 and won six with three draws. In 1971 they won their only series‚ 2-1.

To beat the current All Blacks‚ widely regarded as the best sports team on the planet in any discipline‚ the 2017 Lions would have to win two Tests – or the equivalent of one-third of their total victories against NZ since 1904.

Two of the three Tests will be played at Auckland’s Eden Park. The All Blacks last lost at their favourite ground 23-years ago when France surprised them 23-20.

Since then the All Blacks have racked up 37 straight wins at Eden Park‚ including last Friday’s 78-0 stroll against Samoa.

Some of the tries the world champions scored last week were worthy of any season’s ‘best of’ highlight reel. For the All Blacks‚ it was just another day at the office.

But it gets worse for the Lions. The last time the Lions toured NZ‚ in 2005‚ the All Blacks had a formidable record.

Prior to that series the All Blacks boasted an overall winning percentage of 73 out of their 393 Tests. At home that percentage lifted to 79 in 192 Tests.

But since the last time the Lions were in NZ 12 years ago‚ the All Blacks have become even stronger.

In the period starting with that 2005 tour (including the three 2005 Tests)‚ the All Blacks pushed their overall winning percentage to 88.2 of the last 161 Tests. They’ve only lost 16 Tests in the past 12 years.

At home‚ over the same period‚ the All Blacks’ winning ratio is a staggering 96% with 71 wins in 74 Tests.

But it gets worse for the Lions.

Since losing to the Springboks in Hamilton in September 2009‚ which was their last home Test of the season‚ the All Blacks have been undefeated at home in the past seven years.

They have won 45 consecutive home Tests in that period‚ with an average winning score of 37-13.

And since 2010‚ the All Blacks have won two World Cups and 86 of 95 Tests (90.1%) with seven losses and two draws.

There has never been a period of dominance in any sport quite like it. If the Lions win this series it would be the biggest sporting achievement of the decade.

CRUCIAL STATS:

 

All Blacks vs. British & Irish Lions (All in NZ)

P 38 W 29 L 6 D 3

Win Ratio: 76.3%

 

All Blacks overall Test record

P 553 W 427 L 107 D 19

Win Ratio: 77.2%

 

All Blacks at home

P 265 W 222 L 37 D 6

Win Ratio: 83.8%

 

All Blacks since professionalism in 1996

P 258 W 217 L 37 D 4

Win Ratio: 84.1%

 

All Blacks since professionalism at home

P 120 W 112 L 8 Win Ratio: 93.3%

 

All Blacks at home since 2010

P 45 W 45

Win Ratio: 100%

 

- TimesLIVE

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