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Umaga sees Lions challenging the All Blacks in first test

The British & Irish Lions take on New Zealand in the first test at Eden Park on Saturday.
It’s been 12 years since the Lions’ last toured New Zealand when Tana Umaga captained the All Blacks in a 3-0 series win.
Umaga has been involved in two of the warm-up games as coach of the Blues that beat the Lions 22-16 and assistant coach of the Maori All Blacks that lost 32-10 last Saturday.
His older brother Mike – a former Samoa international – is director of rugby at Bishop Burton College and we asked him to preview Saturday’s first test and what it means to the people of New Zealand when the Lions arrive in town.
“The first test is going to be crucial to the whole series,” Umaga said.
“If the Lions can get the win, I can see them going on to win the series 2-1.
“If they don’t, I can see the All Blacks winning the series 3-0.
“New Zealand showed a lot of firepower in their 78-0 win over Samoa last Saturday.
“We’ve not seen that from the Lions, yet, but they have defended very well which will please Andy Farrell.
“The performance of the Lions’ tight five is going to be massive if the tourists are to take a 1-0 lead in the test series.
“And it promises to be a fascinating battle between Beauden Barrett and Owen Farrell.
“The Lions are building nicely but it seems they have a limited, but effective game plan.
“The referee and how the players’ interpret him will have a massive role to play in this game too.
“I wish Nigel Owens was in charge of one of the games rather than Jaco Peyper.
“If New Zealand win, it will be by eight points and if the Lions win, it will be by three.”
Umaga knows how significant a Lions tour to his home country is to the rugby mad nation.
“The Lions Tour is massive in New Zealand because it only happens once every 12 years.
“I grew up watching the 1971 series on TV and narrowly missed out on playing against the Lions in 1993.
“It was great to see my brother captain the All Blacks to a clean sweep of victories the last time the Lions came to New Zealand.
“New Zealand always wants to beat Australia and South Africa but there is something special about playing the Lions.
“This is an exciting tour and like all tours it takes time for players to gel.”

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