The Lions named their team to face the Crusaders and the big guns are coming out to play.
“They are better than what they played last night (against the Blues).” – Scott Robertson, Crusaders Coach
After a disappointing start to the tour the British and Irish Lions need a big game on Saturday, and it is lining up nicely against the undefeated Crusaders in Christchurch. Both teams named strong lineups on Thursday evening meaning the build up to this game can now begin.
After their loss to the struggling Blues, the British and Irish Lions were demonised in the eyes of the public. The British and New Zealand media alike have counted the Lions out, deeming the Lions defeated.
However, history goes out the window come Saturday. Despite a disappointing loss to the lowest ranked team in New Zealand Super Rugby, the Lions will certainly lift their game. They’ve named an incredibly strong 23 man squad, including a starting back line many would deem likely for the first test of the series.
Key to success
The key to success for the Crusaders is going to be their forward pack, as it has been throughout the Super campaign. But there is real promise being shown by future All Black hopeful David Havili, and this is the perfect stage for him to shine. Havili has played a lot of rugby this year at fullback but with the return of Israel Dagg, his transition to inside centre was needed. This is also due to the injury of All Black Ryan Crotty.
Havili is matched up against former Rugby League player, Ben Te’o, who could prove to be a liability when properly challenged. Te’o was a silver lining in a game against the Barbarians, which didn’t have many positives for the Lions. It is Havili’s job to make sure Te’o stays quiet and does his Test chances no favours.
1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Luke Romano, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7. Matt Todd, 8. Jordan Taufua, 9. Bryn Hall, 10. Richie Mo’unga, 11. George Bridge, 12. David Havili, 13. Jack Goodhue, 14. Seta Tamanivalu, 15. Israel Dagg, 16. Ben Funnell, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Mike Allaalatoa, 19. Quinten Strange, 20. Jed Brown, 21. Mitchell Drummond, 22. Mitchell Hunt, 23. Time Bateman.
Key to success
The backline that the Lions selected is one that many pundits have selected as their backline for the First Test. With such an array of riches and the comparative inexperience of the Crusaders backline, this is a real weapon for the Lions. To use this weapon they are going to need to get at least parity up front and then provide quick ball.
Marshalling the backline is European Player of the Year, Owen Farrell. But Farrell can only be as good as the service he is provided, which is where Murray comes to the fore. Murray performs time and time again against the All Blacks, and I am expecting the same on Saturday evening. If these two get good ball, then it is all on to unleash the quality midfielders and the world class back three.
Stuart Hogg had a quiet, somewhat reserved game against the Provincial Barbarians, and Leigh Halfpenny took his chances against the Blues. Can Hogg step up? Can Hogg show why he was back-to-back Six Nations Player of the Year? Or will he play his way out of the Test team? So many subtle nuances.
1. Mako Vuinipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Alun-Wyn Jones, 5. George Kruis, 6. Peter O’Mahony, 7. Sean O’Brien, 8. Taulupe Faletau, 9. Conor Murray, 10. Owen Farrell, 11. Liam Williams, 12. Ben Te’o, 13. Jonathan Davies, 14. George North, 15. Stuart Hogg, 16. Ken Owens, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Dan Cole, 19. Maro Itoje, 20. CJ Stander, 21. Rhys Webb, 22. Jonathan Sexton, 23. Anthony Watson.
The game is going to be won and lost up front. Both of these packs are world class, and it is going to be a right old ding-dong. But it is the backlines that will hopefully ignite the cold June air. The Lions will target this Crusaders young backline. And on the flipside, the young bucks will want to show Hansen and co. just what they are missing. There is opportunity galore for all of them.
The loss of Crotty is significant, but Havili has a chance to step up. And step up he must. An ambitious young man with dreams of playing for the All Blacks will surely seize this opportunity?
Underestimating Farrell and his influence would be a mistake, he will want to pull all sorts of strings to get his backline humming with confidence.
This is setting up to be a very tasty encounter indeed. The question is, will you be watching?
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.