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Pressure on Lions from the outset

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    29 May 2017     Getty Images

He told The Irish Times, "I think it's a shame that at a time when the Lions probably have their strongest squad in an awful long time, they have such a difficult schedule.

"It's a real shame that they couldn't have an extra week between the end of the season and the start of the tour. That would have been great for them."

New Zealand were so good at the moment and they would be up for the Lions when they arrived.

"They're not thinking of 3-0 when they come. They're thinking 10-0. That very first game, every single one is going to be a Test match. I think they [the Lions] have a chance but it's a slim chance," he said.

O'Connell, who toured Australia, South Africa and New Zealand with the Lions said it was only when playing the All Blacks that he realised how hard touring could be.

Of the 2005 tour he said: "That was when I learned a little of what it must be like to be English on tour. They don't like the English as much as they like the Irish over there. You'd have a bit of sympathy for the English lads after it."

O'Connell said the challenge for the side was being able to switch quickly into the tour and having everyone on the same tactical page because the All Blacks would play how they've been playing with the advantage of combinations built over time.

"In the last two tours, [2009-2013], we tried to bed in a certain way of playing from day one. We played the Welsh gameplan, which is a fairly simple gameplan and everyone knew it after two days. That's one of the benefits of having Warren [Gatland] as coach and Rob Howley involved. When we played that gameplan it was really easy to learn it quickly," he said.

Other game plans had what he called 'more wrinkles' in them and were harder to learn when there wasn't always the time available.

An example was in his area of expertise in lineouts which had always been an issue until forwards coach Graham Rowntree came in and said in 2013 that they would do it the English way.

"In the past with the lineouts we had gone with a system that had tried to please everyone and ended up pleasing no one. We ended up with something the coach couldn't even coach because it was brand new and we were all finding our way with it, him at the same space as us," he said.

It had also helped that England was well represented among the key participants and they had helped the others understand. But the question would be whether there was enough time to achieve that in New Zealand.