Zinzan Brooke

Brooke played for the All Blacks between 1987 and 1997, playing 58 tests and 42 matches. Across the 100 matches, Brooke scored 195 points, made up of 42 tries and three drop goals. He is considered one of the best number eights to have ever played for the All Blacks with running and kicking skills of a back along with the strength and mobility of a great loose forward.

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Zinzan Brooke : Vocal fans make a huge difference

Getty Images     03 Jun 2017     Getty Images

There's been a lot of positive thoughts and vibes here in the North, and there has been a fair bit of coverage around this first game against the Provincial Barbarians. We’ve seen 10 to 15 commercials a day building up to Warren Gatland's first Lions game in New Zealand which will see him pitted up against his son Bryn. It's fair to say Mrs Gatland's got some pretty split allegiances at the dinner table.

QUICK TAP: NZ Provincial Barbarians v The British & Irish Lions Preview

Back to the game and really, the Lions have to put up a statement in this first game if they're to have any shot. They need to be able to show the tens of thousands of supporters who have travelled there that it isn’t going to be one way traffic, and that they’ll be more than competitive.

How are they going to do? I think they’ll have a pretty decent start, the Lions – maybe two wins in their first three games. If they do they’ll consider that a fairly solid showing ahead of the three All Blacks games.

There has been a fair bit of chat in the Northern Hemisphere over the fallout from the 2005 Lions side. There was some talk about players getting rarked up by backroom staff, and a bit of an outcry around how outplayed they were by the All Blacks. What needs to be remembered is they entered a series against the All Blacks who were in an absolute purple patch. The 2005 Lions were a good side, but they were just off the mark.

The Lions enter this series probably feeling a bit frustrated at just how good the All Blacks are. The exodus of stars like Dan Carter and Ma'a Nonu after the 2015 Rugby World Cup was supposed to dent the world champions and bring them back on par with the rest of the world. Instead they’ve gone to another level.

Speaking of another level, those British and Lions fans travelling around the country are absolutely phenomenal and could end up having an impact in the game. When they're back here in the Northern Hemisphere, the fans go a little wild. People ask me whether fans actually make a difference, I know this for a fact: The players get a boost from knowing vocal fans understand the battle they're coming under, and that makes a huge difference.

While all of the emphasis is on the two sides in the middle, Kiwis and Lions supporters will have a battle on their hands, and here's hoping it's just as good as the encounters we're going to be seeing on the pitch.

It's going to be one helluva five weeks, starting in Whangarei tonight. Get out there, get vocal,