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Crusaders shaping as unofficial 'fourth Test" for Lions

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    27 Apr 2017     Getty Images

Writing in The Times, Barnes, who toured New Zealand with the Lions in 1993 said with the Crusaders being able to call on their All Blacks for the game, it would be the unofficial fourth Test.

Barnes made the comments when comparing the efforts of one of England's, and Europe's, top teams, Saracens, at the weekend with those of the Crusaders and the Hurricanes in Investec Super Rugby.

"Would Saracens have a hope in hell against the Super Rugby champions the Hurricanes? Come to that, would they have much of a chance against the Crusaders?

"To those who see the game in its most positive light, the answer is probably a negative against both teams. But for those who trust in the darkness of the defensive mindset, then the southern hemisphere's rather immodestly named Super Rugby sides have a few questions of their own to answer," he said.

"The tries flowed so freely [for the Hurricanes and Crusaders]. Yes, sometimes the excessive ambition of the lesser variety of Super sides, opens the way to soft scores but before we sneer at this high-scoring game a word of warning."

Barnes said the Hurricanes' second half effort against the Brumbies in Wellington was 'technically magnificent'.

"Forget about the Brumbies. They [the Hurricanes] would have racked the tries up against most teams on the planet. If a 14-man Saracens had played the Hurricanes for 42 minutes they would have capsized.

"As for the Crusaders, the skill level of their supporting and offloading game was astonishing," he said.

Barnes said if a game between the Saracens and the Hurricanes were to be played in either hemisphere the Hurricanes would take strong favouritism into the game.

"On their day, Saracens are capable of the sort of controlled chaos to give any team a contest but the sheer speed of rugby's southern equivalent would more often than not blow their house down. So it has been in recent years between New Zealand and the rest of the world. Attack does prevail at the highest level," he said.

However, Barnes said Saracens were right to develop their own brand of controlled rugby because imitation got a team nowhere.

"The Lions should play more like Saracens than the Hurricanes. If they take New Zealand on at super speed they will be destroyed," he said.