Time for respect to return to rivalry

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    02 Nov 2017     Getty Images

Respected Guardian rugby writer Robert Kitson said, "Let us bin the red clown noses, ditch the bitchy propaganda and appreciate the next month for what it is: a golden chance to see good players in our own back yards and, if possible, to beat them fair and square."

Suggesting jetlagged Kiwis wandering the streets should be given a welcoming hug he said, "It is time to revive rugby's slightly battered concepts of mutual admiration and respect."

It had been shown by the Lions that the All Blacks were 'human rather than invincible supermen' and that had been extended with Australia's win in the third Bledisloe Cup game.

"Should the All Blacks emerge unbeaten from their Tests against France, Scotland and Wales, it is unlikely to have been entirely straightforward," he said.

But the last thing rugby needed was to head further down a self-destructive road as had been seen during the Lions tour.

"Back in the summer the average New Zealander could not have been more welcoming, ushering rugby-loving tourists into their homes and taking pride in showing them their beautiful country (and its vineyards). How good it would be this autumn if European supporters were also actively encouraged to fall back in love with the tall, black-clad strangers in their midst," he said.

The Barbarians game which opens the tour on Sunday (NZT) could be a suitable healing agent. That had been the case in 1973 when one of the great games of rugby was played between the famous club side who, for all intents and purposes, were the 1971 Lions team reassembled, and the All Blacks.

"The memories of Gareth Edwards, Phil Bennett, David Duckham, John Bevan et al have yet to fade but neither have the names and craggy features of their opponents: the great Ian Kirkpatrick, the peppery Grant Batty, Sid Going's sideburns, the boot of Joe Karam.

"It is said people never remember losers; absolutely not in this case," he said of the All Blacks' 11-23 loss.

England coach Eddie Jones had made the point that he had been impressed with the way the All Blacks were managing their transitional phase by blooding new players and going about their experimenting quietly, he said.

Kidson said that whatever some felt about the Lions tour, 'there is genuine appreciation right across the northern hemisphere for the skills of Beauden Barrett, the fresh talent of Rieko Ioane, the all-court game of Kieran Read and the dash of Damian McKenzie. Nor is it an act of patriotic treason to say so'.