Lions tour: Dave Rennie predicts test series will live up to the hype

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie predicts the All Blacks v Lions test series will live up to the hype.
HAGEN HOPKINS/GETTY IMAGES

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie predicts the All Blacks v Lions test series will live up to the hype.

Any doubt in Dave Rennie's mind that the test series between the All Blacks and Lions may fall flat of expectations is well gone.

Rennie watched the Lions suffocate and stifle his depleted Chiefs on Tuesday, just as they did New Zealand Maori and the Crusaders in previous weeks.

The tour didn't start on such a positive note for the Lions, with a poor outing against the Provincial Barbarians followed by losses to the Blues and Highlanders. 

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Former Chief Jared Payne dives over for a Lions try.

The Lions' Iain Henderson is held up over the tryline.

Lions wing Jack Nowell dives over for his second try.

Chase Tiatia of the Chiefs charges forward.

Jared Payne of the Lions is congratulated on his try by Robbie Henshaw.

Chiefs captain Stephen Donald of the Chiefs looks on during the first half.

Lions wing Jack Nowell celebrates scoring a double.

Former Chief Jared Payne runs in the Lions' third try.

Siegfried Fisi'ihoi of the Chiefs skips out of a tackle and makes a break.

Robbie Henshaw of the Lions kicks the ball through.

Lions wing Jack Nowell dives over for his second try.

Former Chief Jared Payne is tackled.

Lions wing Jack Nowell is congratulated by team-mate Greig Laidlaw after scoring their team's opening try.

Greig Laidlaw of the Lions kicks downfield as Chiefs halfback Finlay Christie closes in.

Tim Nanai Williams of the Chiefs looks for a way around Robbie Hensha.

Dan Cole throws a pass for the Lions.

Lions wing Jack Nowell dives over to score the opening try.

The Lions' Joe Marler of the sits in the sin bin after receiving a yellow card for a late tackle.

Johnny Faauli of the Chiefs is tackled by the Lions' Elliot Daly.

Chiefs halfback Finlay Christie is hauled down by CJ Stander.

Chiefs second five-eighth Johnny Faauli runs hard at the Lions' defence.

Lions first five-eighth Dan Biggar tackles Tom Sanders of the Chiefs.

The Lions' Iain Henderson is held up over the tryline.

Lions captain Rory Best shouts instructions.

Chiefs first five-eighth Stephen Donald kicks a penalty goal.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie walks along the sideline.

Lions coach Warren Gatland walks off the pitch ahead of the match.

Lions wing Jack Nowell is tackled by the Chiefs' Lachlan Boshier.

Chiefs captain Stephen Donald kicks the ball through.

Lions first five-eighth Dan Biggar throws a pass.

Liam Williams of the Lions is tackled by Chiefs captain Stephen Donald.

Courtney Lawes of the Lions and Dominic Bird of the Chiefs contest the ball in the lineout.

Chiefs wing Toni Pulu gets medical attention.

CJ Stander of the Lions is tackled.

The Lions huddle together before the match.

Chiefs halfback Finlay Christie is tackled by Iain Henderson of the Lions.

James Haskell of the Lions is tackled by the Chiefs' Chase Tiatia.

Robbie Henshaw of the Lions runs at Chiefs captain Stephen Donald.

Michael Allardice of the Chiefs drives the ball forward.

Liam Messam, centre, and his Chiefs team-mates perform the haka.

The Lions' Elliot Daly skips through the tackle of Finlay Christie.

Lions wing Jack Nowell checks on injured Chiefs wing Toni Pulu.

Robbie Henshaw of the Lions is stopped by the Chiefs defence.

Dan Cole of the Lions charges upfield.

James Haskell of the Lions is wrapped up by the Chiefs defence.

Fireworks before kick-off in Waikato.

The Lions face up to the Chiefs' haka.

Visiting Lions fans made the presence known.

Lions coach Warren Gatland looks on before kick-off.

A Chiefs fan gets ready for a big night.

Nervous Lions fans await the start of the game.

A view of the Lions' dressing room.

Lions fans arrive early for the Waikato clash.

Young Chiefs fans show their colours.

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But their 34-6 win over the Chiefs will give the tourists confidence and was enough to impress Rennie. 

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Chiefs captain Stephen Donald looks on during the first half.
HANNAH PETERS/GETTY IMAGES

Chiefs captain Stephen Donald looks on during the first half.

It was, in many respects, a familiar script, though the Lions showed more second half ambition in Hamilton than they have all tour.  

The Chiefs, missing 10 front-line players, entered the game with plans to attack; to back their skills and play at pace. But, with their set piece strangled and the Lions rush defence again causing problems, Rennie's men simply could not get anything going.

The Chiefs knew what was coming and were powerless to stop it. They couldn't generate quick ruck ball; couldn't break free of line-speed pressure.

Looking ahead to first test at Eden Park on Saturday, Rennie predicted the All Blacks will deal with the Lions' challenges better than his men were able to.

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"The Lions are getting better and better. When they get settled on combinations and so I think it will be a pretty exciting series," Rennie said.

"They were able to dominate us and most of it was our issues but they're going to come up against a pretty good set piece in the All Blacks so they'll have to earn it and fight for it.

Lions pivot Dan Biggar is tackled by Chiefs loose forward Tom Sanders.
DAVID ROGERS/GETTY IMAGES

Lions pivot Dan Biggar is tackled by Chiefs loose forward Tom Sanders.

"I think it's going to be the series everyone thought it was going to be a month ago. Maybe there was a little bit of doubt recently but they're getting better and better."

While go forward and high ball catching will be focal points, Rennie singled out Ian Foster's responsibility for the All Blacks' attack as what could prove the defining factor.

"You can have all the plans from an attack point of view but if you don't get your set piece going nothing happens. If you're ill disciplined the Lions are a side that can put you in a corner and hurt you there as well.

"Certainly Fozzy's area around attack they'll have some plans but they'll have to do it under a fair bit of heat. They may do it differently to us. I'm sure the All Blacks will have a plan and they've got some pretty good cattle."

Likewise, stand-in Chiefs captain Stephen Donald expects the All Blacks to cope better with the rush defence.

"From our point of view it was obvious they suffocated us and saw our nudges in behind and a couple of our little plays but the All Blacks have some fairly handy individuals and they've been planning for this for a long time," Donald said. "I'm pretty sure they'll have a few tricks up their sleeve."

While the result, scoreline and losing wing Toni Pulu to a potentially season-ending knee injury was naturally disappointing, Rennie remains optimistic a full-strength Chiefs side remain contenders for the Super Rugby crown.

"This time last year we beat Wales and didn't win the title so I'll be much happier winning a title and losing tonight. "

 - Stuff

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