Wales coach Warren Gatland says the British and Irish Lions face a hellish challenge on next year’s tour of New Zealand.
The big uncertainty is whether he will be involved.
New Zealander Gatland deflected questions relating to his potential appointment as 2017 Lions coach in the immediate wake of their series whitewash at the hands of the All Blacks.
The 46-6 third Test loss in Dunedin on Saturday only served to emphasise the size of the challenge the Lions face to reverse their terrible record in New Zealand.
They have won just one of 11 series, in 1971, and just six of the 38 Tests played.
“It’s always an incredibly tough country to come and tour,” former All Blacks hooker Gatland said.
“It wasn’t until I left here that I realised how difficult it is to come and play rugby here.”
The third Test on Saturday highlighted the speed and skill of the world champions, who Gatland says appear to be building another powerhouse unit under Steve Hansen following last year’s World Cup triumph.
However, it isn’t necessarily matching the New Zealand backline which will be the key to Lions’ fortunes.
Gatland says the acceleration of all the All Blacks players into rucks and collisions is an obvious point of difference.
“The physicality that they bring at the tackle area, that’s the big lesson that we’ll take,” he said.
“You can get away with it in the northern hemisphere because it’s definitely not as aggressive at the breakdown.”
Gatland, a successful coach on the 2013 Lions tour of Australia, says Wales let themselves down with a poor kick-chase performance in Dunedin which gave the home side’s back three too much space.
They also missed about 30 per cent of their tackles, which contrasted with stauncher defensive efforts in the first two Test losses.
“This was very disappointing. We thought there were plenty of positives from the first two Tests,” he said.
“The players are disappointed and gutted but I’m sure they will be better for this experience.”