British and Irish Lions: Reaction to defeat will define tour - Guscott

Maro Itoje leaves the field
England forward Maro Itoje (centre) was making his Lions debut after 12 caps for England

There has to be a sea-change in intensity and commitment on the pitch from the Lions.

At points in their defeat by the Blues, they did well.

They created quick ball and moved the point of attack, creating space out wide before probing around the fringes. Their line speed was better than it was in the narrow win over the Provincial Barbarians in the tour opener.

But those were the highlights.

At other times there was a lack of continuity, cohesion and understanding.

There were solo runners heading into contact and that is just meat and drink for these Kiwi defences at the breakdown.

You can't do that in the tour matches, never mind the Tests.

They were too narrow in defence, they did not reorganise quickly enough and they coughed up far too many penalties.

Blues kaha
The Lions faced a specially composed haka at Eden Park

There were not as slick as they should have been in attack either. Jared Payne should have been into the corner for the Lions, but they did not take the one chance they created in open play.

Some in the press will lament the fact that the Lions don't have the line-breaking, off-loading game that created the Blues' decisive try for Ihaia West.

But I don't think that anyone was under any illusion that the Lions were going to go to New Zealand and out-play the hosts at their own game.

The template is there for Warren Gatland. Ireland and England beat the All Blacks in 2016 and 2012 respectively with a performances of insane intensity and tight discipline.

There is very little need to deviate from that.

It is about combining full-throttle aggression with precision execution.

It is incredibly difficult to pull off and the performance on Wednesday was a long way away from it. Nobody ever said it would be easy though and there are still another two and half weeks until the first Test.

Nowell loses ground on Ioane and a Test place

Jack Nowell beaten by Rieko Ioane
Rieko Ioane has made two Test appearances for the All Blacks and could be called up to Steve Hansen's 33-man squad on Thursday

It was a match in which we got closer to working out a Test team through players going backwards in Warren Gatland's reckoning, rather than coming forward to claim a first XV spot.

Jack Nowell was up against a huge talent in 20-year-old wing Rieko Ioane, but is chasing the rest of his rivals for a Test place after missing a couple of tackles and getting caught out of position for Ioane's first try.

Maro Itoje was busy, but he gave away a couple of poor penalties and it was his error that allowed Sonny Bill Williams to break the line for West's try.

Wales flanker Justin Tipuric, Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw and England second row Courtney Lawes were full of energy and will have done their chances no harm.

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny showed his class, delivering off the tee and tidying up well when called on.

Gatland has said that every player in the squad will start at least one of the first three games.

That means the likes of Owen Farrell, George North, Sean O'Brien and Mako Vunipola will start against the Crusaders on Saturday and have a chance to put themselves ahead of the competition.

'We were supposed to lose 3-0 in 1997'

John Bentley
John Bentley sets off on his memorable long-range try against Gauteng Lions in 1997

The Lions weren't given a chance in South Africa in 1997.

We were supposed to lose 3-0 and that always resonated with me.

I looked around our squad at the quality of players alongside me and didn't know how you could say that.

Lions tours are always about how you bounce back. That moment came for the 1997 squad at half-time against Gauteng Lions.

Three days earlier, we had suffered our first defeat of the tour against Northern Transvaal. We found ourselves in the Ellis Park changing rooms on the wrong end of a 9-3 half-time scoreline against Gauteng Lions - one of the strongest non-Test teams we would face.

Lions tour
3 JuneProvincial Barbarians Won 13-7
7 JuneBluesLost 22-16
10 JuneCrusaders
13 JuneHighlanders
17 JuneMaori All Blacks
20 JuneChiefs
24 JuneNew Zealand
27 JuneHurricanes
1 JulyNew Zealand
8 July New Zealand

But Austin Healy and John Bentley scored superb tries as we ran out 20-14 winners. That win gave us momentum heading into our first-Test victory against South Africa, the morning after which all the team were up early to help the mid-week guys prepare for their match against Free State.

Rebound, get up and get on. That was the ethos then and it should be the message that Gatland is transmitting to his team now.

There is nothing wrong with saying that we have not played well and saying there is better to come.

No more talk about the schedule and the difficulties in preparation - they have to pull this team together and get them playing with intensity.

The players know the size of the challenge now. They have to embrace it, love it and prove people wrong.

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