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Lions have greatest potential to beat All Blacks

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    02 May 2017     Getty Images

McGeechan, who played eight Tests for the Lions on tours of South Africa in 1974 and New Zealand in 1977, and who coached four Lions teams in 1989, 1993, 1997 and 2009, while being midweek coach in 2005, told The Rugby Paper: "In terms of quality, it's an outstanding squad.

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"It can definitely challenge the All Blacks who are favourites because they are world champions and they very rarely lose at home.

"Of all the international sides to take on New Zealand, the Lions' potential to win is far greater," he said.

McGeechan feels the tour will be significantly different to 2005 when the Lions were blackwashed 3-0 by the All Blacks. Under former All Black Warren Gatland as coach, the Lions would have someone who knew the New Zealand rugby environment and also that if the Lions respected the All Blacks they would have a chance of beating them.

"The whole squad has options and variety and it's got clever players. Yes, you need physicality and there are a lot of big men, but you also need dynamic physicality, so you've got players who are confident in space and confident on one-to-one with a defender," he said.

Central to the side's plan would be five-eighths Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell who McGeechan described as 'real Test animals'.

"They are good decision makers. The critical thing will be time together. You've got to develop the combination, but in terms of quality and competitiveness there's a strong unit there."

McGeechan took aim at critics who describe Gatland's style as 'Warrenball'. He said it was a meaningless term invented by someone who didn't understand what they were watching.

"Yes, you need big men, but you need to be on the front foot to play at pace and that's what New Zealand do as well.

"So the real essence of this tour party will be the ability to vary where they put their runners. Sometimes, they'll be big men with support and sometimes speed merchants and steppers to attack the defence," he said.

While the Ireland win in Chicago had been used as an example the All Blacks could be beaten by many commentators, McGeechan said that result had to be put in context. The All Blacks were without locks Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick who were important to New Zealand's core approach.

"The Lions have some genuine rugby players in the second row. More than anything else that's the way the game has moved on. The back five in the forwards now show what they can do and they tie in with the midfield," he said.