The logistics involved in playing rugby in New Zealand require that players not only have the native skills needed to compete, but they also need an extra element-the ability to deal with the unique demands of far-flung travel that can exact a steep toll on players’ mental capacity to shut out distractions to their customary routine.
As a native Kiwi, Lions Coach Warren Gatland is well acquainted with this aspect of the game, so as he picks his squad, those considerations figure prominently into his selections.
He will soon be announcing the 37 rugby players he will take back to his native land for a 10-game tour. His squad will play the Blues, Highlanders and Crusaders on that tour, so he has taken the approach of picking players who view the intense tour as a challenge to be embraced, rather than one spring from the mind of some sadistic travel agent.
The fervour the Lions can expect to encounter is such that is seldom seen anywhere else. The New Zealand rugby tradition calls for any and all visitors to be given a full dose of the reality that comes from facing fierce Kiwis determined to protect their home ground.
Players with experience playing for or in New Zealand will most likely find their names printed on Gatland’s list.