Wellington - Former Australia coach Robbie Deans said on
Friday the British and Irish Lions were "absolutely" capable of
beating the All Blacks in next year's blockbuster Test series.
Deans, himself a former All Black, rejected the notion that
the New Zealanders were practically invincible after notching a record 18
straight Test wins, including a repeat victory at last year's World Cup.
Deans said Lions coach Warren Gatland, another Kiwi, had the
resources to engineer the Lions' first series win in New Zealand since 1971.
"Absolutely, he's got the biggest pool of talent
available to him... there's some young players coming through who will be
once-in-a-generation players, like (England's Maro) Itoje," he told the
"It's definitely doable. It won't be easy, we know
that, but it can be done."
Deans said Argentina and Australia both challenged New
Zealand at periods in the recent Rugby Championship, but could not maintain the
intensity for 80 minutes.
He said that should not be a problem for Gatland's Lions.
"Physically there's no difference, in fact you'd
suggest that their group (the Lions) could be superior (to New Zealand),"
The All Blacks had "mastered the mental side of the
game" and Gatland's men had to adopt a similar positive attitude even if
they encountered setbacks.
"You've got to do that for 80 (minutes) and you've got
to alleviate those negative thoughts when things go against you," Deans
"When things go against the All Blacks, they respond
He said New Zealand's unprecedented success may prove an
Achilles heel in the long term.
He said if the All Blacks cruised into next year's series,
the Lions could put their rivals under the type of stress they have not
experienced in recent seasons.
"The great weakness of 18 consecutive victories is
there's a lack of experience there in adversity," Deans said.
"You look at competitions where teams go unbeaten through the round robin, they seldom win the comp."