Sir Clive Woodward’s Lions were ripped apart by the All Blacks, who inflicted a whitewash in a one-sided series. The 2005 pride never recovered from the confusion of Christchurch in the First Test where their muddled game plan led to a 21-3 defeat.
For Wilkinson, who felt less like a Lion than a headless chicken in that game, the lesson is that the Lions must stick to the basics and ensure they go into the Tests singing from the same hymn sheet, even if it means playing the most basic rugby.
The cramped time frame handed the Lions to formulate a coherent style offers no other option.
“We went down to 13 men against New Zealand in Wellington with England in 2003 when we had a couple of guys sin-binned but we were so together and sure of each other that we just dealt with it. A couple years later we were there with a full squad of amazing guys from all different teams packed into the Lions, went out for the First Test and it was like chaos I’d never seen before,” said Wilkinson.
“We had 12 of us in rucks at times. We were literally all over the place. Everyone was trying their best and giving more than they have ever given – I’m sure of that – but they pulled us apart.
“At times I was defending against five people. I was just picking one and thinking ‘You’re getting it.’ As soon as I saw the pass leave the hand I just had to guess. I remember twice choosing the right bloke and whacking into them. If it I’d hit someone else then it was done.
“How many times in rugby now do you see a five or six-man overlap? Never. There were four or five in that First Test in the first half. Not only that it was happening with it chucking down with rain and windy as well. New Zealand were kind of doing well but even they were thinking: ‘what’s happening here?’
“The Lions have to be absolutely clear this time. They need to have fewer things to do but be absolutely clear on each of them. Everything has to be driven in one direction. If that means…