All Blacks aren't used to Lions atmosphere in New Zealand, claims Stuart Barnes
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 06/07/17 3:03pm
Former British and Irish Lion Stuart Barnes has claimed the All Blacks "are not used" to the atmosphere they are facing in their own country against the Lions, which he says is a major boost for the tourists.
With the series level at 1-1, both sides head into the decider at Eden Park this Saturday, an arena the All Blacks haven't lost in since 1994.
The Lions Tour live only on Sky Sports
Make sure you don't miss Saturday morning's series decider. Get Sky Sports today!
In their second Test victory in Wellington, however, it was the Lions supporters which dominated the Westpac Stadium and Barnes insists such support in New Zealand will play a factor.
"This part of Auckland is going to be packed with red jerseys and the whole place is going to be a giant party," Barnes told Sky Sports News HQ.
"But I think it's significant as well in that Eden Park is the great New Zealand stronghold, but Eden Park is going to sound like it's Cardiff, like it's London, like it's Dublin, like it's Edinburgh and I think that's a major boost for the Lions.
"Normally they [New Zealand] play Australia or South Africa and everything is: 'Kiwi, Kiwi', and the All Black players have said they are not used to this sort of atmosphere.
"I must say I've been here many many times and New Zealand is a little bit like Munster.
"When you get off the plane in Limerick, the Munster fans say: 'oh no, I think we're going to lose this one', and I think in New Zealand when they meet a team that confronts them, and it's not very often, they fear the worst. It's part of the psyche.
"In Australia they like to have a great big party, whereas here they worry about everything, so there's a lot of fear and concern in New Zealand at the moment."
Lions coach Warren Gatland has selected the exact same 23-man squad for the third Test, keeping Mako Vunipola and Alun Wyn Jones in the starting XV despite outside pressures to drop the pair.
Barnes added he thinks Gatland's squad are concentrated solely on the Test now, claiming captain Sam Warburton will have a big role to play.
"The question of should there be changes, should it be Mako Vunipola, I think that it's one of those things that's been in the press quite a bit," he added.
"The question's been raised once or twice and he's [Gatland] just thinking let's get it out of the way and get focused on the game, because I think that's where the Lions are at the moment, they are now focused on this Test match, not what has been.
"The calm of Sam Warburton was quite heartening from the perspective of the Lions, and I think this is going to be a Test match where there's going to be a lot of pressure, a lot of heat on referee Romain Poite. I think it's very important that the captains keep calm and keep their cool and Warburton can do that.
"Kieran Read is going to be playing his 100th game for the All Blacks, but he looked a little feisty and a little bit rattled in the last Test so I think that's quite good.
"And I also enjoyed the fact that Alun Wyn Jones just seemed very very comfortable in the skin of being the sidekick to Maro Itoje, it looks like a really good partnership.
"So overall, it's not expansive, it's not explosive, they're not promising to rip up the world but they also seem in a very good place."