WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Former New Zealand captain Colin Meads believes the British and Irish Lions’ odds of winning the first test have shortened dramatically after their emphatic 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks on Saturday.
The Lions play Super Rugby side Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton on Tuesday in their final warmup before the first test against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.
Defeats to the Blues and Highlanders had heaped pressure on Lions coach Warren Gatland but Meads said the win over the Maori All Blacks side had showed the Lions had a chance in the three-test series against the world champions.
“After last Saturday, they’ve got a good show,” the 81-year-old told local media in the North Island town.
“I’d say from 70-30 (in favour of the All Blacks) it’s gone to about 55-45 now. I wouldn’t want to put my house on (the result).”
Meads, who faced the Lions in 1959, 1966 and 1971 and is regarded by many in New Zealand as the nation’s greatest player, was feted in his hometown Te Kuiti on Monday with the unveiling of a 2.7 metre bronze statue in his likeness.
Meads and his brother Stan, who formed a formidable All Blacks locking partnership, combined to pull the shroud off the statue in Te Kuiti’s main street in front of schoolchildren, New Zealand Rugby officials and travelling fans following the Lions series.
The statue has Meads, nicknamed ‘Pinetree’, in running stride with a ball stuck in his right hand.
A renowned enforcer, Meads played a then-record 55 tests for the All Blacks and was captain during the 1971 Lions series, the only time the Lions won on New Zealand soil.
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford