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Warren Gatland Brings Wholesale Changes To Lions’ Starting XV Before Blues Match

The 2017 British and Irish Lions Tour has begun with a lackluster start. Warren Gatland continues his search for his test match XV with an all new starting lineup to take on the Auckland Blues.

Saturday’s match between The British and Irish Lions and the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians did not live up to expectations. The attack by the Lions was not present for most of the match. It was not until the second half when Anthony Watson made his try that the Lions took the lead. Although the match was not the worst start to a Lions tour, it did not live up to expectations. Warren Gatland is still working through his players to find his ideal starting XV. In that search, Gatland has announced his starting XV for the Lions’ first match against a Super Rugby team in this tour.

The Auckland Blues This Season.

The Auckland Blues are currently at the bottom of the New Zealand conference standings with a 7-1-6 record this season. With that, they still have more points than all but two non-New Zealand teams –Lions and Sharks. The Blues may be at the bottom of the table, but they are no slouch team.

The Blues team that will face the Lions will feature eight former and current All Blacks in their starting lineup, including the world-class center Sonny Bill Williams.  All Black legend, head coach Tana Umaga, will lead the Blues against the Lions on Wednesday. Tana Umaga has experience against the British and Irish Lions as he captained the All Blacks in their test series against the Lions in 2005. Umaga was also involved in a long-standing controversy surrounding a hit against Brian O’Driscoll in the opening test match.

This event has been analyzed and reviewed to death by Lions fans and especially by Irish faithful. It was twelve years ago, but unfortunately remains a hot topic for fans today.

Lions’ Strategy to win

This week’s pack is very powerful, featuring some powerful characters such as Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, and C J Stander. Their play in the forward pack will be the biggest deciding factor for the Lions in this match. The contest against the Blues will absolutely come down to the battle between the packs. The Blues pack is very powerful as well, featuring three All Blacks, two of which are on the front row. The Lions need a big push up front to get the edge over the Blues.

With the backs, the Blues feature four more All Blacks, including Sonny Bill Williams. The Lions’ defensive performance last week was one of the few good pieces of the team; that must continue this week. With the strength of the Blues’ backline, if the Lions are going to win, they must lock down the gain line and keep SBW contained.

The Lions must improve if they are to continue to win during this tour.

This year’s Lions team has been heavily hyped, and Saturday’s match was a letdown. All teams when first put together are going to have difficulties. The quality of the Lions is not how they have performed, but how they perform moving forward. From here is where the Lions tour is a success or failure.

British and Irish Lions:

  1. Jack McGrath
  2. Ken Owens
  3. Dan Cole
  4. Maro Itoje
  5. Courtney Lawes
  6. James Haskell
  7. Justin Tipuric
  8. C J Stander
  9. Rhys Webb
  10. Dan Biggar
  11. Elliot Daly
  12. Robbie Henshaw
  13. Jared Payne
  14. Jack Nowell
  15. Leigh Halfpenny

Reserves:

  • Rory Best
  • Joe Marler
  • Kyle Sinckler
  • Iain Henderson
  • Peter O’Mahony
  • Greig Laidlaw
  • Jonathan Sexton
  • Lian Williams

Blues:

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi
  2. James Parsons
  3. Charlie Faumuina
  4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti
  5. Scott Scrafton
  6. Akira Ioane
  7. Blake Gibson
  8. Steven Luatua
  9. Augustine Pulu
  10. Stephen Perofeta
  11. Rieko Ioane
  12. Sonny Bill Williams
  13. George Moala
  14. Matt Duffie
  15. Michael Collins

Resserves:

  • Epalahame Faiva
  • Alex Hodgman
  • Sione Mafileo
  • Patrick Tuipulotu
  • Kara Pryor
  • Sam Nock
  • Ihaia West
  • T J Faiane
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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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