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Now or never for Lions against All Blacks

RUGBY: The British and Irish Lions go into today’s (July 1) all-or-nothing second Test against New Zealand knowing they must win the tactical battle as well as the physical clashes to upset the world champions and keep the series alive.


AFP

Saturday 1 July 2017, 12:23PM


A loss for the British and Irish Lions against the All Blacks in Wellington would condemn the tourists to their 11th failure in 12 visits to New Zealand. Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP
A loss for the British and Irish Lions against the All Blacks in Wellington would condemn the tourists to their 11th failure in 12 visits to New Zealand. Photo: Michael Bradley/AFP

Already one down in the three-Test series, defeat in Wellington would condemn the Lions to yet another failure – the 11th in 12 visits to New Zealand.

Lions coach Warren Gatland and the All Blacks’ Steve Hansen say they are both expecting that a huge collision at the breakdown will prove decisive.

“There’s going to be a tremendous battle there because they’ll be a little wounded from last time out and they’ll want to prove a point there,” Hansen said.

Both men have spent the week crystal-ball gazing on how the game will play out.

Will the Lions again employ the line-speed plan that has worked so well for them, except in the first Test? Or will they develop the running game that proved productive the times they used it a week ago?

And will the All Blacks return to the close-quarter attacks, directed by number nine Aaron Smith, that worked so well when they cleaned up 30-15 in Auckland?

“We have to make sure we stop that,” Gatland said.

“We worked pretty hard on that this week. But the All Blacks will probably come with a different plan. They may throw the ball around, they may kick the ball more. We have got to be ready for the changes.”

Hansen, having out-thought the Lions’ first Test tactics, is now trying to fathom what the tourists will bring this time around.

“He (Gatland) is going to second-guess what we did. Are we going to play off nine again? Then we have to second-guess, if we play off nine, is he going to shut that door? If they shut the door, what other door have they just opened?” Hansen said.

After the All Blacks bullied the Lions in the forwards last week, Gatland has dropped lock George Kruis with Maro Itoje starting in the second row, and recalled tour captain Sam Warburton to replace Peter O’Mahony on the blindside flank.

Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell wear 10 and 12 to have two playmakers running the backline which, as an attacking venture, looks promising.

But defensively, Farrell gives away 14 kilograms to Sonny Bill Williams, the one All Black of whom Gatland said: “It will be important we shut him down.”

The All Blacks’ two injury-forced changes make little difference to the balance of the side, with Waisake Naholo going onto the right wing for Israel Dagg, who moves to fullback and replaces the concussion-troubled Ben Smith.

Anton Lienert-Brown takes the place of Ryan Crotty (hamstring) in midfield with the untested Ngani Laumape on the bench.

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With the breakdown a key area, the All Blacks have retained the same forwards that controlled the first Test, while Gatland wants more from his reorganised pack the second time around.

“As I have spoken all along, we need to be more physical up front. The players are aware of that and we have spoken about that as a group,” the New Zealander said.

Hansen was giving nothing away about how the All Blacks would contend with a more fired-up Lions pack.

“They’re sitting there thinking, ‘Will they do the same thing as last week?’

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see what we all do but it’s about reacting and adapting to that at the moment,” he said.

“We’re determined to win all the time. I’m sure that’ll definitely be the mental state they’re in. They’ll be determined to win.

“Losing hurts, it sucks, it’s not a great idea.”

Teams (15-1):

New Zealand: Israel Dagg; Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Kieran Read (capt), Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino; Sam Whitelock, Brodie Retallick; Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody.

Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Ngani Laumape.

Lions: Liam Williams; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Taulupe Faletau, Sean O’Brien, Sam Warburton (capt); Alun Wyn Jones, Maro Itoje; Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola

Replacements: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, CJ Stander, Rhys Webb, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell

Refereee: Jerome Garces (FRA)

 

 

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