New Zealand head into their forthcoming series against the British and Irish Lions as firm favourites.

The Lions haven't won a tour to the country since 1974 and were whitewashed on their last visit in 2005.

But it would be foolish to completely write off the Lions' chances.

Steve Hansen's side are not unbeatable and the tourists head to the southern hemisphere with plenty of reasons to feel confident.

So here's why the Lions will beat the All Blacks...

 

GATLAND'S WINNING FORMULA

Wales coach Gatland is back in the Lions hot seat after masterminding the 2013 series victory over Australia.

A win apiece from the opening two Tests teed up the third in Sydney beautifully, with the Lions seeking a first series win since 1997.

Gatland came in for fierce criticism over his team selection for the decider, most notably dropping Lions icon Brian O'Driscoll in favour of his tried-and-tested Welsh centre partnership of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

But he was vindicated in his decision as the Lions roared to a 41-16 win that secured an historic triumph. 

Gatland has shown himself to be a man capable of making the big calls when they matter most. With Sam Warburton as his captain again, this is a proven formula that reaped the ultimate reward four years ago.

 

THE IRISH EXPERIENCE

New Zealand strung together a record run of 18 consecutive victories from August 2015 to October 2016.

That marker has since been matched by England but it was Ireland who brought an end to the All Blacks' march with a stunning performance in Chicago in November.

A display packed with passion, determination and spirit, the 40-29 victory represented Ireland's first win over New Zealand after 111 years of trying.

Rory Best was Ireland's inspirational leader on that occasion and, though he does not captain the Lions, his experience of that day will be of huge benefit to Gatland's tourists.

In total, the Lions take eight men who played in Chicago on tour. They'll all be hungry for a repeat of their November heroics.

 

ENGLAND'S UNKOWN QUANTITIES

As England embarked on their record-equalling winning run under Eddie Jones, there was tremendous clamour for his form men to face off against the All Blacks.

The sides have not met since 2014 and, for whatever reason, a Test could not be lined up, with New Zealand instead scheduled to face the Barbarians at Twickenham later this year.

But three years without a meeting means New Zealand have little to no experience of the crop of English players who form a sizeable chunk of Gatland's squad.

Of the 15 Englishmen in the touring party, only three - Owen Farrell, Courtney Lawes and Joe Marler - started the 24-21 defeat at Twickenham in 2014.

England have come a long way since then and Gatland's Six Nations winners will want to show the All Blacks what they have been missing in the opening Test.