Pumas game was 'ideal to cut teeth on'

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The Independent Online

Those All Blacks who witnessed the British and Irish Lions' half-cocked display against a grass-green Argentina side in Cardiff on Monday evening might be forgiven for wondering whether there will be any fight in the tourists when they come to Christchurch for the first match in the three Tests on 25 June.

New Zealand's provincial teams, less celebrated but rarely found wanting, are probably thinking along similar lines, not least the rugby folk of the Bay of Plenty, where the Lions open on Saturday week.

Yesterday, Sir Clive Woodward addressed the issue head-on. "The draw with the Pumas hasn't deflated us," he insisted.

"Looking back, it was an ideal game on which to cut our teeth. You have to start somewhere and while it was a poor team performance, it was one based on a very limited period of time spent together. No one needs to tell us about the scale of challenge we face, about how badly the New Zealanders want to win this series,"he said. Woodward added that the injury issues surrounding the Bath prop Matthew Stevens and the Scottish No 8 Simon Taylor had been successfully addressed, but no firm date has been set for the arrival of the England full-back Jason Robinson.

Welsh stand-off Stephen Jones will leave France for New Zealand on Sunday but there is still doubt over Gareth Thomas being released by Toulouse, the new European champions.

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