With the domestic season over, the tough work is only just beginning for the Lions, as they head south into a winter furnace.
The gruelling ten-game tour of New Zealand promises to be brutal and unforgiving, regardless of the myriad pundits convinced that this is the Lions' strongest ever squad. While that may be true, it does not diminish the absurd task ahead of them: to beat the All Blacks twice at home (they haven't lost a test game at home since 2009), while also dealing with the challenge of Super Rugby sides eager for their pound of flesh.
As you'd expect, there are plenty of Lions previews across the papers today, with Shane Horgan's Sunday Times column one of the most interesting.
Many of the columns fear for the Lions, with the absurd schedule cited as a main reason for the concern. Horgan, however, has a different take: he fears that it is the coach, Warren Gatland, who is the Lions' "weakest link".
Horgan, who toured New Zealand in the shambolic 2005 tour, says that the few dimensions to Warrenball could cost the Lions, and does not play to the ball-handling strengths of some of their players:
My worry is that this summer we could see two different philosophies: a group of players stretching themselves in the provincial games, and then the Test team reverting to type with a variation of Warrenball and the hope that Owen Farrell converts his kicks while Beauden Barrett misses.
If they go for the latter approach, they will lose. If they stick with the former, they may lose too but they will at least have given themsleves a chance. I'm not sure Gatland has the playbook and the tactical flexibility for this challenge.
In fact, I would be more confident if any of the other three home nation coaches were in charge.
So I ask myself: is Gatland the weakest link on the tour?
It's well worth reading the full column, in today's Sunday Times.
[The Sunday Times]