Even though the All Blacks held on and held on, the red wave eventually crashed the party, leaving a raft of selection headaches for the All Blacks to ponder.
The two big moments in the game both involved arguably red card worthy incidents. The red card to Sonny Bill Williams was the first presented to an All Black since 1967. It was a blatant red card and one that SBW will have no excuses for. Additionally, there was another controversial event in the match that went reasonably unnoticed.
“THE INCIDENT, IN THE 19TH MINUTE OF THE SECOND HALF, IS DEEMED TO HAVE MET THE THRESHOLD FOR A RED CARD.” – NOWLAND, CITING COMMISSIONER.
Irish flanker Sean O’Brien has been cited for a swinging arm on winger Waisake Naholo. The incident in the 19th minute of the second half was labelled by citing commissioner as a red card offence. However, it went unnoticed.
The certain suspension to SBW and a poor showing from Naholo leaves vacant spots in next week’s test team. The All Blacks are under immense pressure, so will want to make sure they name the best side possible heading into the clash at Eden Park.
After the injury to Ryan Crotty in the first test of the series, Lienert-Brown has once against proven himself as a worthy successor to the 13 jersey. However, depending on who his centre partner is come the third test, there may be a chance of a move to inside. However unlikely this may be, it may tempt Steven Hansen, if ever so slightly. This would suggest the inclusion of rookie Jack Goodhue.
No this isn’t a typo. Yes, I am aware that the 23 test All Black isn’t in the squad right now, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be running out on Saturday. Fekitoa has proven himself, time and time again, that he is arguably the best defensive centre in New Zealand rugby. A combination of that and his ability to attack by both running the ball and offloading, may force Steven Hansen to dial Fekitoa’s number.
When he came on to replace Jerome Kaino of all people, he amplified what was already known. His ability to run the ball up fearlessly, and then make 5+ metres with players hanging off him, is incredible. However, his ability to handle the pressure and defend at an international level is still in question.
He isn’t injured, so in the eyes of some, there may be no reason to drop him. With many reflecting on his performance against the Lions for the Highlanders, there is confusion. However, he struggled to get into the game on Saturday. The Lions love to kick the ball, especially from the base of the ruck, and that’s where Naholo may get exposed. Despite this, with the sunny weather predicted for the final test, Hansen may want to unleash the beast once more.
He highlighted in post-match interviews that he was disappointed with his performance. He had an off night, which has proven itself to be a rarity in his game as of late. However, a combination of his performance and other factors may tempt the selectors to shift Dagg back to the wing. This would open a place for Damian McKenzie or Jordie Barrett, two players who can kick the ball far, proving themselves as other options when exiting the 22.
The recently incumbent winger may receive yet another shot at All Blacks redemption come Saturday. Despite poor showings in weeks past, including against the Lions for the Hurricanes, he may be back in black soon enough. When he is on form, he is tough to tackle. However, Savea’s selection would be deemed quite controversial despite the positives.
What to expect
Ngani Laumape did a lot of things right. In attack, he couldn’t be stopped simply by one player; the Lions needed five. However, this epitomises what an impact sub is. If selected, I would prefer to see him come off the bench, rather than for the starting 15. Expect an angry Malakai Fekiota to get the nod, which would shock, but could prove a masterstroke come Saturday. With the wing position, Israel Dagg has to be seen as likely to shift back. He is all class, but the wing is his future in black. Expect yet another twenty year old to make his run on debut, in Jordie Barrett. The reason for this may involve a poor kicking night off the tee from his brother Beauden. Jordie is a very accurate goal kicker, which should see him get the nod.
Author: Finn Morton
To say I’m obsessed with sport is an understatement. It was due to this passion that I realised a career in sports journalism was the way to go. I’m looking to spread my passion for sport whilst gaining some valuable experience.