Belfast Telegraph

Legend McBride calls for Iain Henderson to beef up 'hopeless' Lions

 

By Jonathan Bradley

Lions legend Willie John McBride has called on his fellow Ulsterman Iain Henderson to be included in the squad to face the All Blacks in the second Test this weekend.

Henderson, who will get the start against the Hurricanes tomorrow morning (8.35am kick-off), was left with a watching brief as Warren Gatland's men were beaten 30-15 by the back-to-back World champions in Eden Park on Saturday. Rory Best will captain the side with Jared Payne on the bench.

But McBride, a five-time Lion who captained the undefeated tour to South Africa in 1974, wants to see the 25-year-old lock included for the rematch.

"Henderson is good in the scrum," said the Ballymena man. "He will win ball when nobody else will win ball. Alun Wyn Jones didn't play well and I'm not convinced by Maro Itoje.

"I would have Henderson ahead of him because he's hard. Itoje is skilful but he wasn't really in the game after he came on. I think Henderson has played well."

McBride also dismissed the Lions' scrum on Saturday as "hopeless".

It is in the tight exchanges that McBride believes the Lions will have to improve after Steve Hansen’s men had the upper hand in Auckland.

A perceived area of strength for the Lions, the All Blacks scored one try off a powerful scrum while also setting a real platform with quick ball secured by their back-row.

“They were better by a long way,” admitted McBride. “The scrum was hopeless.

“And our angles were wrong in the rucks. When you take men on, you take them low, like they did. They were getting over players before they could release the ball.

“Everything we did was too static, too dead, too slow. Their momentum was so much better.

“They were making 20 yards at times, they couldn’t get taken down. Their tight play was magnificent.”

When the Lions last toured New Zealand, something coach Mike Ford said resonated strongly at the time, but was submerged by the chaos of ‘Speargate’ and the equally grotesque spin operation that followed it.

Ford, one of the recent converts from rugby league, was stunned at the disparity in the skill levels between the two sports and, just a decade into professionalism, how the southern teams also lagged far behind the north, as that series Blackwash would illustrate.

Twelve years on and it appears little has changed.

The Lions may have scored the try of the game, but that wonderful moment was out of the ordinary; too often, the ordinary stumped their limited capabilities.

New Zealand’s genius, typified by the likes of Sonny Bill Williams is that they see no difference between the mundane and the magnificent.

“Some of the errors were very basic, ones you wouldn’t expect,” bemoaned 2009 captain and three-time tourist Paul O’Connell. While the social media junkies overdosed on injections of the solitary try scored by the men in red, O’Connell was more concerned with the ball Liam Williams dropped to gift the freakishly talented Rieko Ioane his second touchdown.

For all that the Welshman had dazzled, his work was undone when he became utterly frazzled. Both scores were worth the same.

“Liam Williams dropping balls. Lineout five metres out, you turn it over, you get it back, you turn it over again,” said O’Connell.

“They played really poorly and contributed a lot to the scoreline rather than being completely dominated from the first minute to the last.

“They produced some line-breaks, but I think our ball-handling was poor, stuff we should be good at.

“Fair enough, you can’t countenance for pieces of magic like Kieran Read’s offload, but you’d expect to be better at the scrum five minutes earlier.

“I don’t think the gap is that big, we just contributed massively to our own downfall.”

Belfast Telegraph

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