Gatland's Lions can beat NZ says Deans
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Former Australia coach Robbie Deans said Friday the British and Irish Lions were "absolutely" capable of beating the All Blacks in next year's blockbuster Test series.
Deans rejected the notion that the New Zealanders were practically invincible after notching a record 18 straight Test wins, including a repeat victory at last year's World Cup.
Deans said Lions coach Warren Gatland, another Kiwi, had the resources to engineer the Lions' first series win in New Zealand since 1971.
"Absolutely, he's got the biggest pool of talent available to him... there's some young players coming through who will be once-in-a-generation players, like [England's Maro] Itoje," he told the BBC.
"It's definitely doable. It won't be easy, we know that, but it can be done."
Deans said Argentina and Australia both challenged New Zealand at periods in the recent Rugby Championship, but could not maintain the intensity for 80 minutes.
He said that should not be a problem for Gatland's Lions.
"Physically there's no difference, in fact you'd suggest that their group [the Lions] could be superior [to New Zealand]," he said.
The All Blacks had "mastered the mental side of the game" and Gatland's men had to adopt a similar positive attitude even if they encountered setbacks.
"You've got to do that for 80 [minutes] and you've got to alleviate those negative thoughts when things go against you," Deans said.
"When things go against the All Blacks, they respond the best."
He said New Zealand's unprecedented success may prove an Achilles heel in the long term.
He said if the All Blacks cruised into next year's series, the Lions could put their rivals under the type of stress they have not experienced in recent seasons.
"The great weakness of 18 consecutive victories is there's a lack of experience there in adversity," Deans said.
"You look at competitions where teams go unbeaten through the round robin, they seldom win the comp."