British and Irish Lions 2017: 46 years of All Blacks domination ramps up the pressure on Warren Gatland's side

There is no bigger series than when the Lions touch down in New Zealand, and this year's tour promises to be one of the best in recent memory

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The Independent Online

There’s not one word in rugby that has more meaning that the Lions. The club name has connotations with other teams, with other sports, but when that word is mentioned, you will only think of the British and Irish Lions.

There are few sporting events that hold as much prestige as a Lions tour. Both the Ashes and the Ryder Cup are comparable, but the recent flood of tournaments given they come around every two years somewhat produces their prestige compared to quad-annual Lions.

For players and fans of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, the Lions tour is the pinnacle, and they don’t come much bigger than when the squad heads to New Zealand. The All Blacks have set the standard for so long in international rugby that it is easy not to look beyond their recent period of domination since winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

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But to see the perfect demonstration of All Black domination, just look at the Lions’ dismal record in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Just once have they conquered New Zealand, the famous tour of 1971, and their recent record in the 2005 and 1993 tours make particularly bad reading for the touring side.

That’s why this year’s tour carries so much weight, expectation and pressure that after the success of 2013, finally the Lions can solve the riddle of how to beat the All Blacks. Warren Gatland returns as head coach, keen to finally get one over his home country having had so many disappointing results with Wales. That Gatland, nor Wales, have ever beaten New Zealand will give him a personal quest and while he will not admit it, inside there must be a burning desire to finally get a W on the board.

Then there are the players, the ones who every time they land in New Zealand with their respective national teams are immediately written off, simply due to the fact that the Lions do not lose at home. However, with the calibre of players at Gatland’s disposal – European champions, Six Nations Grand Slam winners and crucially those Irish and Englishmen that have experienced of beating the All Blacks – there is a genuine feeling that the Lions can do something special and end the 46-wait for a series win.