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British and Irish Lions Welcome Standard Life Insurance as a Principle Partner for 2017 New Zealand Tour

13/01/2016 12:54 GMT | Updated 12/01/2017 10:12 GMT

In just over 500 days the most iconic Northern Hemisphere touring side will run out at Eden Park and face the double World Champions as the Lions and New Zealand will meet for the first of three tests. 

At this moment in time we cannot be sure of any of the personnel that will be wearing the historic red jerseys on that day however what we do know is that there will be a sea of red in the crowd due to thousands of supporters making the 11,000 mile trip to New Zealand.

In the professional era the Lions is a concept that shouldn't work, you are taking personnel  from four different nations, with four different playing styles and racing against time to take on the best in the world. However it does due to the calibre of individuals that are coming together and the fierce will and desire that they all have to do the iconic red jerseys justice. That said it isn't easy, even those that we would consider to be unmovable, are pushed to their limits as Martin Johnson highlighted; 

"The Lions tour will find you out, like nothing else because it is very, very intense right from the first time that you get together. As a player, you have to be at your best, your toughest and your most resilient for only then do you have a chance of being successful."

It is that chance that another former Lions Captain Keith Wood reaffirmed. The Irishman is an man that, like Martin, was a leader of his nation and someone that the greats around him truly respected. However he shared with me the almost overwhelming daunt that he felt prior to heading out on tour; 

"It is not until you look around the team room and see the quality that you have inside there and the amalgamation of that quality that you think you that have a chance. There it starts, you have a chance and then you have to work unbelievably hard to get to a test series to try and get a win and back up that chance. It is unbelievably daunting, but incredibly exciting in equal measure."

Of course the class of 2017 are heading into the challenge off the back of a successful 2013 series, whether that adds even more pressure or not we'll have to ask one of the touring party following their selection? However I expect that it won't because touring New Zealand is an altogether different prospect to touring Australia. 

One concern, certainly from the outside, is that right now is that there is a gulf in output between the output of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. That is something that we witnessed during the Rugby World Cup and without question the home nations have some catching up to do. This must to be done first as individual nations before they then come together as one and it will be up to every single coach and player drive this improvement from hereon-in.

The 2017 Lions coach will not be selected until the end of the summer and understandably so for there is so much to come between now and then. Lions 2017 Tour Manager John Spencer is very clear that 'they have a totally open mind' when it comes to selection, even in terms of whether or not it is a coach from the home nations. However you expect that it will, and what we do know is that whichever coach takes it would need to be solely focused on the Lions, essentially needing to take a sabbatical from their current role. 

At this moment in time Warren Gatland remains the favourite to take another tour and should he be selected he'll need to use all of his experience and nous to unlock chinks in what appears to be a fairly indestructible All Blacks armour. 

For now we all have a little bit of waiting to do however as the season progresses and we move into next the players will start to allow themselves to think about the possibility of being a Lions tourist and it will bring out the very best in them. The 2017 Lions touring party will be facing the ultimate challenge however hen it time comes they'll be ready and we will all be mesmerised and consumed by their progress. 

Martin Johnson, Keith Wood and John Spencer were all speaking at the launch of the new principal partner of the British & Irish Lions Standard Life Investments.

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