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Lawes makes case for bench role in Test – Guscott

Lions in New Zealand

The Lions non-Test schedule in New Zealand ended in a draw

It was the last chance to audition for Test slots, but I don’t think any of the British and Irish Lions players played so well in the 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes that they can command a spot in the Lions 23 that returns to the Westpac Stadium for the second match against the All Blacks on Saturday.

The biggest opportunity was in the second row.

Neither George Kruis nor Alun Wyn Jones imposed themselves in the series-opening 30-15 defeat at Eden Park.

Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson<!–

Lawes and Henderson are attempting to break into a highly competitive second row

However, I don’t think Iain Henderson or Courtney Lawes did enough against the Hurricanes to displace Kruis, Jones or Saturday’s replacement Maro Itoje in the race for a starting slot.

I might be tempted to use one, or perhaps both, to make an impact off the bench, though.

Lawes is a thunderous tackler in defence, while Henderson is a slightly better ball player, as he showed with his nice offload for George North’s try on Tuesday.

Both bring something to a matchday squad, but I think Lawes – who came off after 55 minutes – is favourite to get in the 23.

In the first Test, our defence did not shake the All Blacks enough. New Zealand got around the edge of a tackle too often and were able to offload.

Lawes is one of those players who could smash them back and deny them those opportunities.

To win against the All Blacks, I think you have to presume you will be ahead after 60 minutes because they always come on so strong in the final quarter.

You are going to need some defensive power to hold them up in that home straight.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you could not include Henderson on the bench as well, with Lawes covering the back row in what would be a really dynamic selection.

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Gatland non-committal on Henderson Test hopes

It looks as if CJ Stander, who had a hugely impressive Six Nations campaign at blind-side flanker, might have played his last game of the tour.

I feel sorry for him because, although he plays number eight for Munster, I don’t think deploying him there in New Zealand has been the right call.

He put in a hard defensive effort on Tuesday, making 14 tackles and not missing any, but it is difficult to pick him on his form on this trip.

North was perhaps the other player with most to gain.

As Wales coach, Gatland knows first-hand how destructive North can be – trampling over people, racking up serious yards and taking the ball off nine and 10 at pace.

He has not really done that on this tour, and his chance to do so in his preferred wing position disappeared when Robbie Henshaw went off injured after 20 minutes and he was shunted into the centre.

He popped up to seize on a loose ball and run in a try, but he did not get involved enough for me, either with ball in hand or in defence.

The game brings to an end the Lions’ matches against local provincial opposition. Against the Super Rugby sides they have ended up even – winning against the Crusaders and Chiefs, losing to the Highlanders and Blues, and drawing this final one.

These games, the midweek ones especially, have revealed the intensity on the ball that the New Zealand provincial teams have in possession compared to the Lions.

They look like they can make a break, get in support and score a try from anywhere.

The Lions are a couple of beats behind in that department and the comparison is not a pretty one.

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