Lions 2017 – Trouble Ahead

The Lions – Trouble Ahead

There may be trouble ahead for the Lions after a second mid week defeat after a 23-22 defeat at the hands of the Highlanders in Dunedin. The players that faced the Highlanders will now be at a slight disadvantage when it comes down to Test selection. They face the Maori All Blacks this weekend and then take on the Chiefs before the First Test against Steve Hansen’s men.

Time is now against Gatland and his squad and with a record of 4 games played and a strike rate of 2 wins and 2 defeats, confidence must be really brittle. The Lions have thrown everything at the first few games and have come up really short in their quest to find the ideal XV to face the All Blacks in Test number 1.

The game plan the Lions seem hell bent on employing is a well versed but extremely narrow minded way of playing the game and again we are seeing that the difference between both sides of the equator in the way the game is played. Each player playing against the Lions is very happy to have ball in hand and very willing to take on the Lions defence at every turn and are scoring some wonderful tries as a result. They are however well capable of tightening their game up as was in full evidence yesterday during the Highlanders game.

I have watched on over the past two weeks and cringed at the way the Lions have tried to bludgeon their way to victory. You just can’t go south of the equator and think what works up here north of the equator will work down south.  Looking at what has happened , passing which I have to stress is a basic requirement of the game of rugby is severely lacking and when you see players struggling to finish chances off because they can’t pass it is extremely disappointing.

People may say I am looking for too much perfection but let me tell you if the All Blacks get the magical 3 on 2 overlap you can be damn sure they will convert it into 5 or 7 points. This is a key element in trying to beat the All Blacks , the approach Ireland used in 2016 in Chicago where they put pressure on a good kick chase will only really work once and you need to have a plan B and C.

The Lions need to put the battering ram away and try and be clever in possession , there is a time and a place for the battering ram in a game of 80 minutes but you can’t beat the All Blacks using it for the full 80.

Rob Howley really needs to buck up his ideas in terms of how to attack the All Blacks. He has some terrific players at his disposal like Owen Farrell , Rhys Webb alongside Sean O Brien and Courtney Lawes in the pack. It is a real shame that as I have pointed out the basic skill of passing is really lacking in this team and I don’t know how they will fix this issue before Test 1. It is a real shame that we are again coming back to the basics of the game in regards to paid professionals.

 Yes the All Blacks put all those skills under intense pressure but to beat them you have to live with it and come up with solutions. In the scrum barring yesterday the Lions seemed to have found a weapon to use and if they could keep that facet going they may be able to launch strike plays from there.

Owen Farrell and Jonathan Sexton have struck up a good partnership and this could also mean good things for the Lions if the team can find the key to unlock all that attacking talent within the group. On the evidence of the past two weeks I don’t hold out too much hope for a Test Series win a first since 1971. I hope that I will be proven wrong in the coming weeks.

Here is my Team to face New Zealand on Saturday week.

15 Elliot Daly

14 Anthony Watson

13 Jonathan Davies

12 Owen Farrell

11 George North

10 Jonathan Sexton

9 Conor Murray

8 Toby Faletau

7 Justin Tipuric

6 Maro Itoje

5 Alun Wyn Jones

4 George Kruis

3 Tadgh Furlong

2 Jamie George

1 Jack Mc Grath

16 Ken Owens

17 Joe Marler

18 Kyle Sinkler

19 Courtney Lawes

20 Sean O Brien

21 Rhys Webb

22 Jonathan Joseph

23 Leigh Halfpenney

By

Cian Mc Gibney

14/06/2017

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