5 Talking Points Ahead Of The Lions’ Game With The Crusaders
It’s now or never.
The Lions are back in action tomorrow as they take on the undefeated Crusaders. Coming off the back of a disappoiting loss to the Blues, Gatland has rung the changes, naming his strongest side yet.
Murray and Farrell partner each other for the first time, while the likes of Tadhg Furlong, George Kruis, Peter O’Mahony, Jamie George and Sean O’Brien come in to make their first starts.
Ahead of what can only be seen as must-win game, here are five talking points.
Despite the fact that this is no doubt the strongest Lions team we have seen on tour so far, Gatland’s men head into tomorrow’s clash as underdogs according to the bookies. The Crusaders are 14 from 14, but at club side being favourites against a team full on tier one internationals shows just how highly the New Zealand franchises are rated and how tough a tour the Lions have ahead of them. How this will play in the minds of both sides remains to be seen.
Before the tour started, Johnny Sexton was favourite to partner Conor Murray in the halfbacks, with Farrell at inside centre. Sexton’s poor form however means a Murray/Farrell combo is looking increasingly likely. How they play together tomorrow will go a long way. Both are world class individuals but can they be a world class combination?
Two games in and we still have no idea what Test back-row will take the field against the All Blacks. Faletau and Stander have impressed, but it’s O’Mahony and O’Brien’s chance tomorrow. Captain Sam Warburton is short of match fitness and O’Brien wont get a better opportunity to stake a claim for his spot. As for O’Mahony, that six jersey is still well up for grabs.
The engine room.
Alun Wyn Jones captains the side tomorrow and will be joined in the second-row by the man he’ll likely be battling with for a Test jersey. Itoje will no doubt start but will he be playing with George Kruis or Jones? The Welsh captain was very poor in the Provincial Barbarians game and needs a big game.
The Lions really need a win.
While it’s still early and the objective of this tour is to find a Test team capable of beating the Lions, we really should be worried if Gatland’s men don’t come away with a win tomorrow. To lose two of your first three games, with your one win coming over an amateur side, is not good. Confidence will be low and a backlash will gather momentum. Winning tomorrow will be no easy task, but if there’s to be any hope of a series win, they Lions must pull it out of the bag. They’re expected to lose tomorrow as they are the series. Tomorrow is there first chance to start proving people wrong.