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Fitness explains Lions defence: Farrell

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 12/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

Fitness will be a weapon, not a weakness, for the British and Irish Lions on their tour of New Zealand insists defence coach Andy Farrell.

In the wake of a colossal defensive performance to beat the Crusaders, Farrell deflected praise to the rugged programme the players had been through before leaving home shores.

While keeping the brilliant Crusaders side tryless in Christchurch on Saturday was pleasing, he said it was how they went about it which was most significant.

"The main thing for us was that we got stronger throughout the game," Farrell said.

"Our collisions got stronger, our breakdown work got better, our linespeed improved.

"We're bearing the fruits of the last three weeks. We've gone hard, fitness-wise, contact-wise."

European teams traditionally struggle against New Zealand in June, with tours tacked onto the end of a marathon northern hemisphere season.

Only England (in 2003) and France (2009) have achieved a Test win on Kiwi soil in the last 23 years, but Farrell thinks his Lions won't make fatigue an excuse.

A carefully designed programme had been given to each player to ensure they're at peak fitness for the Test series.

"We've taken a lot out of their legs and with the travel etc, that would have had an impact on the first couple of games.

"But we're ready now to get battle-hardened for a Test match. We're still ramping it up intensity-wise."

Farrell says the intensity and discipline of the Lions defence against the Crusaders will need to be repeated against a Highlanders side who present a contrasting danger.

While slippery conditions in Christchurch had a big say on that games' structure, a hard fast surface under the Dunedin roof will pose problems, Farrell said.

"We know the type of game they want to play. The Highlanders kick the ball a hell of a lot," he said.

"A lot of those are attacking kicks and it's done at speed so it's really good to watch, actually."

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