Adam Jones insists the British and Irish Lions have re-established themselves in the hearts and minds of the New Zealand public to atone for the disastrous tour of 2005.
Warren Gatland’s men drew their series against the All Blacks 1-1 after a thrilling decider in Auckland on Saturday ended in a 15-15 stalemate, bringing the toughest touring schedule of the professional era to a close.
It was a far cry from the last visit to New Zealand 12 years ago when the Lions were overwhelmed 3-0 in the Tests and made few friends among Kiwis.
“It was a fantastic game of rugby and for the Lions it was a positive tour overall,” former Lions and Wales prop Jones told ESPN.
“That was not the case on their last visit to the country, of course, but the painful memory of 2005 has now been banished. Everything about that tour 12 years ago was a shambles.
“The trips to South Africa and Australia in 2009 and 2013 helped put the Lions back on the map, but these players have gone a step further – they have built bridges with the New Zealand public.”
Future Lions tours are to be reduced to eight matches when the new global season takes effect in 2020, but Jones insists they should be preserved in their existing format.
“It seems inevitable that there will be less time for these trips, with World Rugby apparently keen for them to be reduced to eight games, but the tour of New Zealand has proved that the Lions still works.”
“The 10-match schedule should not be thrown out but instead used as a blueprint for future tours.
“Ten matches is a good amount of time to get a squad together and allow players to get used to each other.
“If you cut another two games from an already packed schedule then you are making it doubly hard for the Lions to compete with Southern Hemisphere sides.
“But these days money talks, and if Premiership Rugby or World Rugby want to mess with the Lions then I’m sure they are more than capable of doing so.”