Lions schedule is essential preparation, says former coach McGeechan

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The British and Irish Lions will benefit from having a six-game warm-up ahead of the first Test with New Zealand, insists Ian McGeechan.

Warren Gatland's 41-man squad - who depart on Monday - face a demanding fixture list, but former Lions coach McGeechan feels that will prove valuable leading into the three-Test series against the world champions.

"I know there's talk at the moment of shortening a Lions tour, but that's from people who've never done it," McGeechan, who coached four Lions tours across three decades, told 5 live's rugby podcast.

"The six-game preparation is so important to collective understanding.

"A player has to put on a Lions jersey and start with a number on his back in the first three games. He can't sit on the bench or not be involved.

"You have to wear the number on your back and then you're a Lion. You're there in the position you were chosen for.

"There's the combinations that you need to put together but there's also that defining element of giving the player the opportunity, and you need all six games."

The New Zealand Provincial Barbarians provide the Lions' opening opponents on June 3, with the opening Test staged in Auckland on June 24.