Wellington - Rival captains Sam Warburton and Kieran Read
have given strong backing to future British and Irish Lions tours following
speculation that the 129-year-old tradition could fall victim to pressure from
British clubs, looking to protect their players, are
reportedly calling to restrict Lions tours to a handful of games - unlike the
current, 10-match tour - which would make them unviable.
Critics also point to the Lions' poor record on the
four-yearly tours rotating among New Zealand, South Africa and Australia with
only 12 of 33 series won.
Ahead of the second Test against New Zealand, where the
tourists are fighting to save the series, Lions skipper Warburton said he would
be dismayed if internal politics and finances put paid to the composite team,
which first toured in 1888.
"From the playing point of view it's been the absolute
pinnacle of my career and every career highlight I have had has been in a Lions
shirt. I still love playing for my club, Cardiff Blues, and Wales but the Lions
is what it's all about for me," Warburton said.
"Without sounding too strong I'd be gutted, devastated,
if the Lions was ever lost. I think it's absolutely amazing and the players all
think the same. In my house I've only got one jersey hanging up on the wall,
and it's my Lions jersey. That's how much I think of the Lions."
All Blacks skipper Read, experiencing what for him is a
once-in-a-lifetime chance to play a series against the Lions, believed popular
demand would ensure the tours carry on.
"This has just been so exciting being around the
country in the past couple of weeks and seeing the supporters from both sides.
It's been awesome. They're so passionate about the game and I'm sure it will
But while Read wants more tours, his immediate concern is
Saturday's clash which he believes will be much tougher and more physical than
the first Test, won 30-15 by the All Blacks last week.
"It will be a step up. Certainly when you put those
things on the line it makes teams play pretty ruthless and wanting to do the
best they can. It's their tour, it's their year this next game," Read
"For us we've got to have that same mindset. We can't
just be waiting for what they going to bring. We've got to go out there and
take it for ourselves and try and lead with our game and palm our game on to
"If we're sitting back and waiting and expecting what
the Lions are going to bring we'll certainly get caught on the hop and we'll
get dominated out there."