Lions or Lambs?


Gatland: conservative
By P G Tips
May 29 2017

The Lions have departed for New Zealand, eleven of them having played on Saturday. In the most demanding schedule yet, they play their first match next Saturday and a total of ten in just six weeks. Those games are three Tests, the Maori –often thought of as an “extra Test”, the five new Zealand Super rugby franchises and a “Barbarians” team selected from the provincial unions. To cope with that challenge Warren Gatland and his fellow coaches have opted to take 41 players, with an average of 43 caps each. An impressive group, but will they strut through New Zealand as Lions rampant, or are they doomed by fatigue and the schedule to be lambs to the slaughter? 

The Coaches

 

Plenty of experience here- and winning pedigree. Warren Gatland will be on his 3rd Lions tour and was a winner last time, supported by Rowntree, Farrell, Howley and Jenkins. The new boy, Borthwick needs no introduction to this forum and has grown a stellar reputation in 3 years as an international coach. The nagging doubt is the manner of the 2013 victory, the Lions scraped through in the first Test by only two points when Kurtley Beale missed two late shots at goal and despite injury forcing the Wallabies to field a flanker in midfield. The Third Test was won in style, with a radically reshuffled team, but only after Australia had clawed back a 19-3 deficit on 20 minutes to 19-16 at half time. If a forward orientated game could not crush that Wallaby pack, how will it fare against the might of the All Blacks at home?

 

The Captain

 

Sam Warburton becomes only the second player (after Martin Johnson) to skipper 2 Lions tours. Doubts were expressed about his form in the Autumn and he stepped down from the Wales captaincy to focus on his own game. Since Christmas though, pundits and players alike have queued up to laud his suitability for the job. He had arguably his best 6 Nations yet, but does the choice unbalance the back row? This 6 Nations he was used at 6: to select him there would mean losing the carrying threat of Stander or the lineout steals and defensive disruption of O’Mahoney. If chosen at 7 that leaves the dynamic driving of O’Brien and the fluid link play of Tipuric in the cold. Has Gatland made an error of loyalty that will cost the Lions in the long run? There are plenty of strong candidates to deputise if needed: Wyn Jones, Best, Sexton, Farrell or Laidlaw could all stand in to good effect.

 

The Squad

 

The 2017 vintage are the strongest Lions squad to New Zealand since 1993, possibly even 1971. Eleven of them have been on a winning side against the All Blacks in the last five years and four more have pushed them to within 3 points or less. These Lions can attack through scrum or lineout, by frontal assault drives through the forwards and by dominating territory with astute tactical kicking. Playing to a Gatland tactical plan and a Farrell defensive structure they will aim to give nothing away in defence. It is a squad of warriors, chosen for a simple and direct gameplan to confront, contain, capitalise on errors and kick goals. None of those chosen will take a backward step and New Zealand infringements look bound to be punished: there are 7 Test goalkickers in the party. Again though, there are doubts. Several selected are seemingly there on trust rather than recent form: notably Biggar, Davies and Halfpenny. As always there are controversial omissions, Hartley and Launchbury can count themselves particularly unfortunate and leaving out Ford shows that flair is secondary to size and sledgehammer tackling. If plan A fails, where will plan B come from? Who will provide the surprises?

 

The Chances

 

As said above, this squad has been chosen for a specific job and will play to a defined game plan. If they can deny the All Blacks possession, or territory, or both, in the way that Ireland did at Soldier Field last November, they should be good for one test win. It may not be pretty, but most fans today will not care: the winning end will justify the means. It is hard to see New Zealand falling into the same trap twice though- especially at home. The quickest learners in world rugby can be counted on to turn one day’s threat into the next day’s opportunity.

 

Verdict: Two –One to New Zealand, but don’t expect much “traditional” Lions back play.

 

Gatland’s Likely First Test 23

 

I expect a Lions form of Warrenball will be the favoured plan. Set piece dominance, kicking and more kicking, frontal assault in the opposition 22 defence, defence, defence – all suggest a selection like this:

McGrath, Owens, Furlong, W Jones, Kruis, Stander, Warburton (Capt), Faletau. Murray, Sexton. North, Henshaw, Davies, Williams. Halfpenny.

Replacements: Marler, Best, Cole, Itoje, O’Mahoney. Webb, Farrell, Payne.

 

My First Test 23

 

The “ in your face” tactics employed by Ireland in Chicago last autumn, and by England in 2012 will be needed, but to beat these All Blacks will require tries (as on those occasions) – and the ability to score them in a variety of ways. My selection is more attack, and counter -attack oriented:

McGrath, George, Furlong, Kruis, Itoje, O’Mahoney, O’Brien, Faletau. Murray, Farrell (Capt.). North, Henshaw, Joseph, Daly. Hogg
Replacements: Vunipola, Owens, Sinckler, W Jones, Stander. Webb, Sexton, Nowell.

pqs: qs:
Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Comeonmylovers.co.uk (IP Logged)
Date: 29/05/2017 09:07

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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:07:22:13:51:27 by hasta.

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: BathPatriot (IP Logged)
Date: 03/06/2017 18:15

Lambs, and they will be slaughtered.

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: P G Tips (IP Logged)
Date: 07/06/2017 11:40

Maybe not quite lambs to the slaughter, but easy enough meat in the end for the Blues.

They badly need a good win in Christchurch on Saturday -or they risk being spit-roasted from one end of the country to the other!

PG

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Clarkey3k (IP Logged)
Date: 10/06/2017 21:39

Definitely looked like they could be Lions this morning, more a clearing of the throat than a roar, but I'm sure I heard a few kiwis bleating in the crowd. The tour has begun and well done to all, great result...

Adopted players: 2017-18 T Faletau; [17] D Denton; [16] H. Agulla; [15] L Houston; [14] W Spencer; [13] F. Louw

Change a life with a loan [www.deki.org.uk]

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: P G Tips (IP Logged)
Date: 11/06/2017 13:17

Did well in many phases, but they must learn to take the chances on offer and be more clinical in finishing.


PG

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Clarkey3k (IP Logged)
Date: 11/06/2017 17:09

Quote:
P G Tips
Did well in many phases, but they must learn to take the chances on offer and be more clinical in finishing.

PG

I agree and think that will come as the outside combinations settle. It looks like the set piece and defensive strategy is sorted and being executed, we need to graft on the team the attacking skills you allude to. I think this will improve as we get to the first test although I would settle for test win of the type we saw in the Crusaders game...

Adopted players: 2017-18 T Faletau; [17] D Denton; [16] H. Agulla; [15] L Houston; [14] W Spencer; [13] F. Louw

Change a life with a loan [www.deki.org.uk]

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: BathPatriot (IP Logged)
Date: 24/06/2017 15:14

Lambs.

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Bathovalballer (IP Logged)
Date: 24/06/2017 15:24

Lambs who, if no vast improvements are implemented throughout the team, will be very much slaughtered and spit roasted by their hosts who at times looked in a completely different class.

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Clarkey3k (IP Logged)
Date: 26/06/2017 11:47

Still Lions for me though like many others disappointed and frustrated with their performance. We didn't win because we failed to finish the opportunities we created and made too many errors at key moments in the match. I don't watch SH rugby but was surprised & impressed by the intensity, pace and skills of the AB's, the odd forward pass and late/cheap shots aside. We can win T2 but need to exert more control in the match and stop kicking the ball away. All is not yet lost - it's that thing called hope, again...

Adopted players: 2017-18 T Faletau; [17] D Denton; [16] H. Agulla; [15] L Houston; [14] W Spencer; [13] F. Louw

Change a life with a loan [www.deki.org.uk]

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: BathPatriot (IP Logged)
Date: 01/07/2017 19:48

Hmmmm,Lions today, the red card helped though.

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: P G Tips (IP Logged)
Date: 09/07/2017 09:26

Lions -but in lamb's clothing in one or two games.

Deserved to draw the series for the immense effort of the second and third tests - but were lucky that nerves got to the all Blacks and narrowed the skill gap.

PG

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: BathPatriot (IP Logged)
Date: 09/07/2017 10:05

The Lions did very well considering who and where they were playing. On that last controversial play, could the Lions argue that a Lions player was taken out in the air and therefore a penalty to the Lions would have been the just ruling??

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: P G Tips (IP Logged)
Date: 09/07/2017 13:08

BP Roman Poite checked for "taking out" and concluded that Kieran Reed had simply challenged fairly for the ball. It was in reviewing that footage that he decided to downgrade Owens' offence to accidental offside.


PG

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: BathPatriot (IP Logged)
Date: 09/07/2017 15:48

Thanks PG

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Clarkey3k (IP Logged)
Date: 10/07/2017 07:35

Definitely Lions for me, it was a magnificent effort from all involved given the timing in a NH season, the schedule, the opposition and the home nation media. A drawn series feels like a fair result though my heart was in my mouth when Poite signalled the penalty. There is talk in the papers of a rematch via the Barbarians game in London in November, I would pay good money to see that and roar them on. I hope it can be arranged and the Lions concept can be retained for the future in a way that works for all. My 2001 Lions shirt is back in the wardrobe for another 4 years...

Adopted players: 2017-18 T Faletau; [17] D Denton; [16] H. Agulla; [15] L Houston; [14] W Spencer; [13] F. Louw

Change a life with a loan [www.deki.org.uk]

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Mike the Taxi (IP Logged)
Date: 19/07/2017 20:10

Mixed results for me.
I'd never seen the ABs play live before, and never been to New Zealand.
Auckland is a very busy city, with plenty of bars/eateries, and lots to see and do.
At the stadium, it was a case of showers and ball handling errors, and the result was no real surprise.
Rotorua was fascinating for its hot springs, mud and grumbling geysers.
Napier was a picture-postcard 30's setting, having been rebuilt after a severe earthquake in the 'Art Deco' era. The wineries around that area were very tasty, too!
The locals seemed very friendly, too. by the Friday, most of those we spoke to were wanting the Lions to win 'to make a series of it'.
Wellington was wet too, although we were sat in the shelter of the upper tier. As said above, never having seen the ABs live, it was very satisfying to see the Lions win, and prevent the ABs scoring a try!
A few days respite in Queenstown, with a dinner hosted by the inimitable John Bentley!
Back to Auckland for the final test, and although I'm no expert, it did seem as if the Lions were fired up for the game, and the ABs heads definitely seemed to drop towards the end.
A drawn game and series was, for me, very satisfying.
After 5 days in Cairns, on the Barrier Reef, and 3 days in Singapore, to break up the journey, it's back to reality!

Re: Lions or Lambs?
Posted by: Mike the Taxi (IP Logged)
Date: 19/07/2017 20:22

P.S. It was good to see a more streamlined Coochie on tour again!

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