HAMILTON, New Zealand – Four years after famously urging the Lions to take Australia to the "hurt arena", prior to their series-sealing victory in Sydney, Andy Farrell has declared that an even more ferocious onslaught awaits New Zealand this weekend.
The 2017 British and Irish squad are set to unleash an intense aggression to knock the world champions out of their stride.
And, armed with a successful blueprint from their consecutive Saturday wins over the Crusaders and the Maori, the Lions are primed to tear into New Zealand in the series opener at Eden Park, in four days’ time.
"It’s going to be one hell of a game," the Lions' assistant coach said. "I know we’ll turn up and we’re a good side brimming for a big challenge. Mentally and physically, we’ll be ready. Physically, I don’t think we’ve disappointed so far. Will we need to up our game? Certainly, we will do.
"I think we’re going to have to take ourselves to a place that, individually, we’ve not been to before. But the boys realise that and are excited by that challenge."
Asked if the Lions will have to raise their intensity above the level they were at when thrashing the Wallabies 41-16 in 2013, Farrell said: "I think the game has cranked up.
"The All Blacks have certainly got better over the last four years and are reigning supreme at this moment. We’ve got to get close to that. We’re becoming very cohesive. We’re forcing a few errors, we’re as physical as we should be, but is there room for improvement? Yes.
"It’s up to us to make sure they don’t get what they want. The All Blacks are the best team in the world. They are an unbelievable side, but our squad is full of guys who are used to winning and know how to win. I think we’re going to be one hell of a side."
When it was suggested that the Lions are capable of putting more pressure on this New Zealand team than they have experienced before, Farrell added: "Hopefully. But there’s no doubt that they’ll be saying the same thing so it’s about who deals with the pressure best and makes the best decisions.
"We feel that we’ve got a game and the players to play in all sorts of ways. I think you’ll have to do that over the course of three games."
Steve Hansen, the All Blacks’ head coach, has spent the build-up to the series mocking and goading the tourists, but Farrell insisted that the Lions players regard the barbs as ‘irrelevant’. Meanwhile, Farrell confirmed his son Owen and Leigh Halfpenny — who is recovering from a head knock — are set to be fit for the first Test.