07222017

‘Lions must press their Test claims’ – team news & analysis

Owen Farrell

Owen Farrell scored all of the Lions’ 12 points in their win against Crusaders on Saturday – and the team can build on that win on Tuesday

What a difference a win makes.

Following the much-needed and morale-boosting win over the Crusaders, the British and Irish Lions are in Dunedin to face the Highlanders – Super Rugby champions as recently as 2015.

For the Lions’ players the incentives are twofold; continue the momentum of the tour, and make an individual statement before the first Test against the All Blacks on 24 June.

Those who played in Christchurch have made a compelling case; now the baton has been passed on.

Team news:

After struggling with a minor ankle complaint, tour captain Sam Warburton returns to lead the side.

But the Welshman is candid about the fact he is not guaranteed a place come the Test series opener, especially given the way Sean O’Brien filled the number seven shirt last time out.

Fly-half Dan Biggar is fit to start after concussion, as he looks to make ground on Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton.

The Highlanders are missing a number of players, but can still boast a starting XV that includes All Blacks such as Lima Sopoaga, Malakai Fekitoa, and Waisake Naholo.

Analysis:

While the Lions’ victory over the Crusaders may not have been an exhibition of running rugby, the relentless intensity of the tourists’ performance has forced the New Zealand public to sit up and take notice.

Now this Lions side is faced with the task of backing up that performance, while also looking to dispel theories that the Lions have an impotent attacking game.

However, the Highlanders will revel in the physical challenge, a hallmark of rugby in Otago and the South Island.

What they say:

“If I play Tuesday and I still feel I’m a bit undercut, then I might not be ready for that first Test,” said Lions captain Sam Warburton. “It’s a great ground to play in, so I’d imagine the scoreline will be a little bit different to the Crusaders game.

“I’m sure it’s going to be perhaps a little bit quicker, a little bit more ball in play and some more points scored for sure.”

Winger Tommy Seymour added: “We would be lying if we said we weren’t a little bit disappointed that we hadn’t crossed the whitewash a few more times.”

Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell said: “The Highlanders have scored 50-odd tries this season, averaging over four tries a game, so we know the type of game that they want to play.”

Stats:

CJ Stander<!–

CJ Stander (with the ball in his grasp here) has scored one of the Lions’ two tries on the tour so far

2 – Tries scored by the Lions in their first three matches

3 – Points conceded by the Lions against the Crusaders

4 – Tries conceded by the Lions on the tour so far

What do the locals say?

From the Otago Daily Times – “Landers to play it their way”

There is buzz and there is excitement and little fear as the Highlanders prepare to take on the British and Irish Lions on Tuesday.

Highlanders coach Scott McLeod said: “For some players, it will be the biggest game in their lives. For some of the local boys, having the place filled to the brim, hopefully, will be really exciting.”

Teams:

Lions: Payne; Nowell; Joseph, Henshaw; Seymour; Biggar, Webb; Marler, Best, Sinckler; Lawes, Henderson; Haskell, Warburton (captain), Stander.

Replacements: Owens, McGrath, Cole, Jones, Tipuric, Laidlaw, Farrell, Daly.

Highlanders: Buckman; Naholo, Fekitoa, Walden, Li; Sopoaga, Hammington; Lienert-Brown, Coltman, Tokolahi; Ainley, Hemopo; Hunt, Evans, Whitelock (captain).

Replacements: Pleasants-Tate, Seiuli, Halanukonuka, Dickson, Lentjes, Renton, Banks, Osborne.

What Next?

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