The British and Irish Lions need to “switch off” for a few days to heal bodies battered from their punishing tour but there is no danger of players losing their edge ahead of Saturday’s series decider against the All Blacks, said Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree.
While the All Blacks went straight to Auckland to prepare for the third test at Eden Park, the tourists travelled south from Wellington to New Zealand’s top winter sports destination around Queenstown for two days rest and relaxation.
The Lions sent the three-test series to a decider after beating the All Blacks 24-21 at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday, and Rowntree said the side had to physically recover in order to withstand the coming storm.
“They need to switch off,” Rowntree told reporters in Wellington before they left. “We have done it the last few Lions series, to have a few days off after the second test because they are tired. We have worked them hard.”
Rowntree, a no-nonsense loosehead prop in his playing days whose England career ended in 2006 after 54 caps, said there was no danger of the players being unable to raise the intensity level again for the decider.
Victory at Eden Park would see them join the 1971 team as the only Lions side to win a test series in New Zealand.
“There is a series in the balance. How many of these guys have won a Lions series in New Zealand?” he said.
“What excites the guys is that there is more to come in our game. We’ve got the best rugby players in the home nations here and they’ve had a taste of it.
“The first test they were down, but we got a reaction and they’ve got a taste now so the feeling is ‘right, let’s get this done. Let’s raise our game again.'”
After losing the first test at Eden Park 30-15 on June 24, the Lions ended the All Blacks’ 47-match, eight-year unbeaten streak at home on Saturday and Rowntree expected a “massive reaction” from the world champions.
“They don’t make many mistakes,” he added. “They will be hurting, as we were after last week, so we’re expecting a reaction going into the game at Eden Park.
“They don’t lose there very often do they? But we … want to get this done. We kept ourselves alive and now head into a decider.
“So the lads are aware of where we need to be going into the last game.”