The Runner Sports

Warren Gatland Not Fully Showing His Hand

Warren Gatland said this is the closest we will see to a test match, but this is still not likely a full test lineup

The Lions’ starting lineup for this weekend’s match against the Maori All Blacks features a thorough review of what the British Isles has to offer. The front row is unchanged from the match against the Crusaders last Saturday, with Mako Vunipola anchoring at tight head. The pack performed well against an All Black heavy scrum last Saturday. Maro Itoje is the only member of the front eight that did not start against the Crusaders. This tells a great story of the outlook for the Lions forwards this weekend. Warren Gatland has held back his tour captain though with Peter O’Mahony being named as team captain.

The backs will be lead by the Irish pair at 9 and 10 with Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton. Leigh Halfpenny will slot in at fullback after Stuart Hogg was ruled out for the rest of the tour with a broken orbital bone in his face. The rest of the backs are made up of Welsh and English pairings. George North and Anthony Watson on the wings, and Ben Te’o and Jonathan Davies at 12 and 13.

The lineup is very strong including a majority of players from the squad that beat the Crusaders last weekend.

Owen Farrell ruled out of match against Maori

Owen Farrell experienced a grade one quadricep tear during training this week. It is a low-level injury, but with Farrell’s duties as a kicker, it was determined that he should rest his leg for upcoming matches. Dan Biggar was named as a replacement for the Lions squad following the announcement of Farrell’s injury. With Farrell’s talents, his health is absolutely essential. Hopefully, the injury is no worse than stated now, and he will be able to return to the pitch during the tour.

Lions concerned with officiating following questionable calls in the last two matches

In the last two matches, officials have made calls that the Lions would like clarification on. During last week’s match against the Crusaders, the officials called a penalty kick that appeared to go through the uprights as no good. In Tuesday’s match, the officials changed the mark for a penalty after the decision to kick had been decided and did not allow the Lions to reconsider. This decision potentially cost the Lions the match following their missed kick attempt. They want a meeting with officials to correct the perceived wrongs against the Lions.

Time is running out for Warren Gatland to put his test squad together. It is likely that this team will closely resemble the test squad. With Farrell out to injury, there are bound to be some minor changes, though. The Maori All Blacks have won their last 20 matches. Will the Lions be able to break the streak?

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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