WELLINGTON (Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions would have taken notice of the manner of Ireland’s maiden victory over All Blacks last year, but the world champions also took lessons from the loss, according to skipper Kieran Read.
Ireland played a high tempo, physical game to disrupt New Zealand and run out 40-29 winners at Soldier Field in Chicago last November in a victory that sent shock waves around the rugby world.
The win was Ireland’s first over the All Blacks in 111 years, ended the All Blacks’ winning streak at 18 matches and gave Read his first defeat as captain after he succeeded Richie McCaw in the wake of the 2015 Rugby World Cup triumph.
“We knew were going to lose at some point,” Read told an Adidas website (www.gameplan-a.com).
”It’s one of those things that’s going to happen. I think the thing that made it hard was perhaps we didn’t play as well as we could as a team. That’s when you feel even more hurt.
“I think it’s going to be a valuable lesson for us as a team moving forward where we have some pretty big games coming up with the Lions; a team who will play very similar to what the Irish did.”
Until that match in Chicago, the All Blacks had romped through 2016 even while introducing a string of new faces to fill the gaps left by the international retirements of a core group of veterans.
They comfortably accounted for Wales in a three-match series in June then romped through the Rugby Championship with six bonus-point victories.
The end-of-season tour, however, highlighted the rapid strides made by northern hemisphere countries since the World Cup, when all four semi-finallists were from the south.
While Read’s side accounted for Italy 68-10 in Rome, they had to dig deep at the end of the tour to beat Ireland 21-9 in Dublin before scrambling to a 24-19 victory over a resurgent France in Paris.
“I think we took a lot of lessons from our weeks in the northern hemisphere,” Read added.
”We played a slightly different style of footy to what we perhaps got throughout the rest of the year back home.
“I think that style of rugby, how we can adapt our game against that, is going to be something that we really have to learn.”
The Lions play three tests in New Zealand in late June and July.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Nick Mulvenney