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Prince William sends good luck letter to fired-up British and Irish Lions ahead of series decider with All Blacks

Mirror logo Mirror 8/07/2017 Alex Spink

Credits: Getty Images © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty Images Prince William has backed the British and Irish Lions to finish off the world champion All Blacks in today’s series decider, writes Alex Spink in Auckland.

The Lions will claim the scalp of New Zealand for the first time in 46 years with victory at Eden Park this morning.

And they go into the winner-takes-all showdown urged on by a good luck message from the rugby-mad Prince.

Tour manager John Spencer revealed: "We've had a letter from Prince William saying that everyone is excited about the game and that the four countries are behind us.

“He went on to wish good luck to the whole squad and say that he would be watching. It was addressed to Warren Gatland and put in the team room so that everyone could see it.”

The Duke of Cambridge, like his brother Harry, loves his rugby and last year succeeded the Queen as patron of the Welsh Rugby Union.

His message is one of hundreds received, including texts from the 1971 Lions - the only previous conquerors of New Zealand.

Spencer, who was himself part of that squad, said: "Gareth Edwards, Barry John, David Duckham, JPR Williams, Willie John McBride - several times - have all texted me.

"They were basically saying, ‘Get this monkey off our backs! We don't want to die with the record around our necks’.

“When we won in '71 we didn't realise we were making history. We thought some other team would come along and do the same thing."

The support from afar has been in stark contrast to the treatment meted out to Gatland from elements within his Kiwi homeland.

“The way Warren’s been treated has been an absolute disgrace,” raged Lions attack coach Rob Howley.

“We all love sport and rugby and you can be critical of technical or tactical elements of the Lions or New Zealand.

“But when that becomes personal criticism I think we all step over the mark and that's happened over the last four weeks of the tour.”

Gatland has been lampooned as a cartoon clown and repeatedly attacked on a personal level by New Zealand’s biggest newspaper.

Yet he has kept his dignity and now has the chance to complete back-to-back series wins following the 2013 Lions’ triumph in Australia.

That, according to Howley, would elevate him alongside the original ‘Lion king’, Sir Ian McGeechan.

"I look at Geech and Warren Gatland in the same way, as two outstanding coaches,” Howley said.

"Gats understands the game, he understands players and is probably one of the best coaches in world rugby at this moment in time.

“Out here he’s always been in control, always known what he’s wanted. Hopefully we’ll see the benefits of that on Saturday.”

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