Here is your Lions team to face the All Blacks this Saturday (KO 8:35am Irish time, Sky Sports 1):
Some big calls in there. Firstly, it’s great to see Peter O’Mahony captain the side for the first test. He will no doubt do us all proud and deliver the goods, while Warburton’s leadership will surely be called upon from the bench at some stage in the match.
Gatland has opted for a Murray, Farrell 9,10 partnership and Sexton has been moved to the bench. It’s great to have such a great replacement on the bench but would have loved to see Sexton at 10 and Farrell at 12 from the start, they have looked like they’ve played together for years when both on the field. However, Farrell has been in excellent form and deserves his chance to start at 10. Te’o and Davies make up the centre, both players have been in brilliant form and showed real intent when played. Liam Williams has taken the 15 jersey while Halfpenny gets moved to the bench. The rest of the starting 15 were pretty obvious selections in my opinion, apart from the Gatland’s decision to pick Wyn Jones ahead of Itoje who I think has been in the better form.
The bench is one of the standout elements for me. Each player from 16-23 could easily be starters and should all provide high impact when sprung from the bench! The likes of Owens, Itoje, Sexton and Halfpenny should all give the All Blacks something to worry about when we inch closer to the latter stages of the match.
The Lions’ management team has mentioned throughout the week that they are ready to take on the All Blacks.
“We have trained hard and fast, which you have to to play the All Blacks,”
“The ball is on the field for a long time – it’s a quick game – and we have put the players under a lot of stress. They have trained exceptionally hard.”
“The guys are ready to go. We’ve got a healthy squad all chomping at the bit.”
So it sounds like confidence is high. The way in which the Lions dispatched the Chiefs on Tuesday is very positive and has surely aided in the preparation for this weekend but we do see a very different side to the mid-week team announced today. Don’t get me wrong, the team selection today is of higher quality overall in my opinion, I just hope they can emulate and improve on that performance.
Meanwhile, here is what the All Blacks 23 looks like:
Indeed, this is certainly a very talented and experienced side. Their skipper Kieran Read is only just back from injury so it will be interesting to see how he performs. World Rugby Player of the year Beauden Barrett starts at 10, needless to say this guy is going to cause all sorts of problem for the Lions. Sonny Bill Williams who was incredible for the Blues against the Lions starts at 12 while the very influential and powerful Brodie Retallick starts at Lock.
Hansen hasn’t decided who will take the bench 22 position (replacement out half).
During the team announcement, Hansen had this to say;
“This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions. But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions in the first Test.”
“We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here.”
“It’ll be a battle of contrasting styles which makes it an intriguing Test to prepare for and to be part of.
“We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It’ll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test.”
I think it’s safe to say that Hansen now understands the threat that the Lions pose and the days of slating the Lions and Gatland has now passed.
Our full match preview of this massive first test will be available this Friday so please make sure to check it out!