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George North leads search for ‘X factor’ to rouse lethargic Lions | Robert Kitson

‘We need to start kicking on now’ is the Wales wing’s summary ahead of his tour debut in the match against Crusaders on Saturday

There is inevitably a battle to be won every time the British & Irish Lions visit the New Zealand stronghold of Canterbury. In the past it was a grimly physical one, not least when Sandy Carmichael and Ray McLoughlin were invalided out of the 1971 tour after the infamously dirty encounter at Lancaster Park. These days it is more of a mental challenge, arguably tougher than any other examination outside the Test arena.

The all-powerful Crusaders no longer rely on their fists to intimidate their opponents. Instead they can simply point to this season’s Super Rugby table; the best provincial side in New Zealand are unbeaten in the competition and have been too good for all comers. A Lions victory would cause supporters on all sides to sit bolt upright and reconsider how this tour might pan out.

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