No no no-no. All over twitter, in the papers and even on radio stations, there was talk of change this player and that player. So most people’s teams for the 2nd test would have up to four or five changes. Why? The Lions didn’t play badly on Saturday, they were just outclassed by the better side, the best side. Ok there could be maybe a couple of positions to look at, but if you change too much would that not disrupt the team? I feel it would. Now i know im not as qualified as some people are, but this is just my view. So anyway lets look at the game, who the Lions need to change if any and where they need to improve.
First off hats off to the All Blacks they are just magnificent to watch. We all say it and say it again the All Blacks do the basics so so well, but then they also add the class to it as well. I mean just look at that offload Kieran Read did from the scrum to set up their 2nd try. The one area where most thought the Lions would dominate or at least have a bit more was up front, but the New Zealand forwards weren’t going to let that be the case. They were so much more powerful and smashing everything with so much more power than the Lions. In the breakdown the also dominated the Lions, the seemed so much quicker and stronger in that department. Looking at that, you can maybe make a case for Warburton to come into the team, although I don’t think he has hit form yet. But O’Mahony didn’t have a bad game and he is great in the line out, but you can see the case for Warburton. I really can’t make my mind up. It would be harsh on O’Mahony if he was left out, so I think i would stick with O’Mahony.
In the second row it gets even more interesting. You have potentially four of the five locks fighting it out for the two starting places and probably one on the bench. The one who isn’t in contention I don’t think is Alun Wyn Jones. He just didn’t make a massive influence on the game on Saturday. It would be a massive call by Gatland if he were to leave him out. But i feel that he might not. Courtney Lawes and Ian Henderson both played brilliantly today and both have a chance of playing some part on Saturday, looking more like Lawes as he came off around 50mins in today’s game. I think he will make the bench, that’s where i would put him, bring him on when we need that bit of extra grunt and pure power. So that leaves you with the Kruis-Itoje partnership which deserves to start. I know Kruis didnt have his best game on Saturday or when he came on today, but playing Saturday then on Tuesday is tough and tiring on the body. Also he is the line out master, if he doesn’t play well again you can replace him with another line out maestro in Lawes. The Lions forwards need to pack a punch against the All Blacks in the 2nd test. They need to win the physical battle, that will hopefully get the team on the front foot and let loose the backs.
So now we turn our attention to the backs. Nothing needs changing there really. The Lion backs made holes and made chances against this All Black team, but just didn’t put them away. That’s the next area we need to work on, being more clinical. The stats say it all, the Lions had something like 5 try scoring opportunities, they came away with 2. The All Blacks had 3 and away with 3 tries, that is the difference. Had the Lions been more clinical, they made the breaks, then the final score could have been a lot different. So for that I would keep all from 9 to 15 the same. The one area in the backs i originally thought i would change was the bench, with dropping Leigh Halfpenny and bring in either Jack Nowell or Jonathan Joseph. But unfortunately Joseph didnt get the best of games today. Playing at fullback i didnt think Nowell would be able to show his best, but with an unfortunate injury to Henshaw he got moved to the wing. He didnt have a great try scoring game like his last, but he played well and got stuck in and was involved in alot of attacks. But then Leigh Halfpenny came on, he played well really well, well enough for me to reconsider whether to keep him on the bench or not. You see, i wasnt sure if he could make the sort impact the Lions might need late in a game. But todays game showed he can. So that really is the only area i cant decide on. Either way whoever gets picked they will need to be on top form. One player i have been massively impressed with is Ben Teo, wow. He’d looked good for England, but he has really stepped it up on this tour.
So looking towards the next test the Lions need to do two things. They need to toughen up up front and not focus too much on that. What i mean is, they need to focus on every aspect of their game, because if the All Blacks spot a weakness they will exploit it and do a pretty damn good job at it. They are not the best team in the world for no reason.