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Lions will be better than 2005 - Franks

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    15 May 2017     Getty Images

Now playing his rugby in England where his London Irish side have a chance to win promotion back into the Premiership, Franks told The Rugby Paper that the number of world-class players in the Lions would ensure a stronger showing.

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The side included players who were the best in the world in their position.

"Maro Itoje is right up there. He's a real competitor and I just like his work ethic; he never lets up for 80 minutes, is great on defence and his tight stuff at lineouts and scrums is right out of the top drawer," he said.

That was the case when he was playing blindside flanker for England then being slotted into lock in scrums. There was very little he couldn't do, Franks said.

"Mako and Billy Vunipola are both at the top of their game and in Billy's case I'd expect him to give Kieran Read a run for his money, while Jonny Sexton stands out every time he plays for Ireland and Owen Farrell exudes class.

"George North has had some fantastic games for Wales against Julian Savea and, as a tighthead, I've also got huge respect for Dan Cole, who is easily among that top group in the world. He's unique for a prop in that he plays 70-80 minutes every game. He scrums well, gets himself around the field and wins a lot over turnovers," he said.

On the back of England's improvements and Ireland's win over the All Blacks there would be no shortage of confidence in the side and they will believe they are capable of winning the Test series, Franks said.

"The biggest test is how they come together as a team, and you've also got a coaching team that's not worked together a hell of a lot. That said, I hope it's a close series because I love to see the All Blacks being pushed.

"I might not have said that as a player but as a spectator you want to see the best rugby and the first Test will be fascinating because New Zealand usually start slowly in June," he said.
The All Blacks did have a warm-up game against Samoa while the Lions would have their games against Super Rugby sides and the Maori All Blacks. If the Lions could win the first Test it could be a terrific series.

Franks did not believe the All Blacks would be vulnerable to the Lions maul.

"The rugby public over here [Britain] have a perception of mauling and scrumming but in New Zealand we put a lot into it so I think it will be a strength.

"The big difference is the way the game is reffed between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. If you watch Super Rugby, the refs are very quick on the 'one-two, play the ball' and mauls actually don't go on very long, while in the Premiership they will let mauls and scrums go for quite a while, so it comes down more to the referees and how long they play," Franks said.

The top international referees tended to be more consistent, and refereed closer to Super Rugby than the Premiership. Lions coach Warren Gatland might want mauls and scrums to go longer, but Franks said he did not see the All Blacks losing out in those contests.

If he had one concern about the All Blacks it was the lack of combination in the mid-field where players had not had a lot of time together.