20 Apr 2017

Let the phoney war begin

5:07 pm on 20 April 2017

The mind games are already underway ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand despite the opening match of their ten game tour still over a month away.

Coach Warren Gatland today named a 41 strong tour party for the three test tour, which kicks off in Whangarei on June 3rd.

Lions coach Warren Gatland and captain Sam Warburton

Lions coach Warren Gatland and captain Sam Warburton Photo: Photosport

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said this Lions side has much more expectation on it than any other.

"It's going to be a very good side and they'll come with a lot of expectation and it'll be interesting to see how they cope with that. It's a lot more expectation than what they are used to, because people expect them to win," said Hansen.

Hansen said the squad has all the hallmarks of a Warren Gatland coached side.

But one of the most notable absentees is England's New Zealand born captain Dylan Hartley, who led England to successive Six Nations titles earlier this year.

Dylan Hartley lifts the Calcutta Cup after England defeated Scotland.

Dylan Hartley lifts the Calcutta Cup after England defeated Scotland. Photo: Photosport

Hansen said he'd have picked Hartley but isn't surprised by Gatland's selections and isn't expecting an expansive free flowing style of play from the tourists.

"I think they will tell us they will (play running rugby) but I think they will try and beat us up first, which is pretty much what you'd expect from Warren. He likes his big ball carriers in the middle of the park...and that's what he's picked," said Hansen.

"This is certainly the best British and Irish Lions team we've seen come here for a long time."

Steve Hansen speaks to media ahead of this weekends match against Wales. 9 June 2016.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly