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All Blacks kick more than us: Lions

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/06/2017

The British and Irish Lions have tried to change the narrative heading into the first Test, describing the All Blacks as the kick-happy team of world rugby.

Most commentary previewing the heavyweight clash at Eden Park on Saturday paints the tourists as a one-dimensional side whose attritional style will be based around kicking.

The All Blacks, it is widely said, will adopt a rapid, ball-in-hand style in the first Test.

Not necessarily so, says Lions assistant coach Rob Howley, who contends that the world champions kick more often than any team.

The former Wales and Lions halfback came to his team's final pre-Test media conference armed with statistics.

He says the All Blacks kick 28 to 32 times per Test, which is on the high side.

That is exactly why, Howley says, they have added counter-attacking threat to their back three with the promotion of fullback Liam Williams and winger Elliot Daly into an otherwise settled Saturday lineup.

"We're very mindful of the New Zealand kicking strategy," he said.

"We want to have a counter attack to combat that.

"In the back three we've got pace, we've got early and late footwork and we've got the ability to get on the outside edge."

Howley believes too much has been made of the box kicking of Lions halfback Conor Murray.

While the Irishman is adept at that skill, he employs it no more than All Blacks opposite Aaron Smith, who hoists the ball with regularity.

He described Smith and New Zealand No.10 Beauden Barrett as the planet's premier halves pairing but doesn't believe Murray and Englishman Owen Farrell are far behind.

"In Conor and Owen, we certainly believe that they are the best in the northern hemisphere. There's a maturity about them.

"They bring a lot of stability to our team and composure."

Howley believes the Lions won't make the same number of line breaks they've achieved in their impressive recent wins over the Maori All Blacks and the Chiefs.

Therefore, he says it is vital they are ruthless with any break made.

Too often Lions players have been held up over the tryline on the tour, Howley said.

"But we're creating line breaks. If we weren't I'd be a worried man."

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