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Lions out to break Christchurch hex

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/06/2017

Fights, broken bones and unprecedented failure.

History suggests Christchurch won't be the place for the British and Irish Lions to restore some lost confidence.

As if facing the Super Rugby-leading Crusaders on Saturday isn't tough enough, Warren Gatland's men must overcome a record of misery in the South Island city.

They have lost eight of their nine Tests in Christchurch, their worst record at any regular venue on tours of New Zealand, South Africa or Australia.

Even their famed series win in 1971 featured a lone loss at Lancaster Park.

Six years later they snared a triumph at last, when winger JJ Williams scored the only try of the second Test, won 13-9 before the tourists lost the series.

It has been failure since, most notably in 2005 - a deflating 21-3 defeat in the opening Test.

On a freezing night, any hopes of a competitive series were blown apart, not helped when their captain Brian O'Driscoll's tour was ended by a contentious lifting tackle involving opposite Tana Umaga which wrecked his shoulder.

The incident, and the fallout, paled in comparison to the brutal "Battle of Lancaster Park" in 1971 when Canterbury lost the game but the won what some describe as an 80-minute fight.

The tourists were outraged by what they said was obvious Canterbury intent to injure their players a week out from the first Test.

If that was locals' goal, it worked.

Sandy Carmichael suffered multiple cheek fractures and fellow-Lions prop Ray McLoughlin a broken thumb while flanker Fergus Slattery had teeth knocked out.

Welsh winger Gerald Davies says the game was the most violent he had seen.

"The dressing room afterwards was like an accident and emergency unit," Davies said.

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