Lions Tour of NZ – Preview of 1st Test, Auckland

in #steemsports7 years ago

SteemSports Presenter: @sportsdesk

SteemSports General Manager: Nolan Jacobson, @theprophet0, STEEM Witness & PeerPlays Witness.

Tour To Date

The Lions tour of NZ is a 10 match tour, featuring games against all Super rugby franchises, plus a game against NZ Maori and rounding off with 3 tests. Coming to arguably the powerhouse of world rugby, the Lions couldn’t have chosen a more difficult schedule, having been dubbed the “Tour from Hell” – or not far from it.

The Tour Games

The Lions touched down in NZ, just days before their first fixture against a Barbarians side – a group of provincial amateurs brought together a week before. Claiming fatigue and jet-lag, the Lions struggled to overcome the spirited but limited Barbarians, winning only by 13-7. The next match was against the first Super franchise, the Blues at Eden Park. This was the first real test for the Lions and they struggled to match the up-tempo game of the Blues, and it was some pieces of individual brilliance which handed the Blues victory by 22-16. The next match, dubbed the “4th unofficial test” was against the Crusaders, unbeaten in super rugby this year. An over-excited Crusaders made some uncharacteristic errors, and were not allowed into the game by a suffocating Lions defence, the game being decided solely on penalties with the Lions winning 12-3. The next match against the Highlanders under the roof at Forsyth Barr was another tense affair with a bit more enterprise from the Lions in the ideal conditions. However it was local Marty Banks who kicked a late penalty to give the home side a hard fought win 23-22. The following game against the NZ Maori in Rotorua was expected to be a tough test for the Lions (the Maori beat the Lions when it was last here in 2005). The Maori, however, didn’t really turn up and a dominant forward display in the 2nd half allowed the Lions to win comfortably by 32-10. The final game before the 1st test was against a depleted Chiefs, many of which had either played for the Maori three days prior or were on All Black duty. The Lions surprisingly ran in a few tries and easily accounted for the Chiefs 34-6.

The Styles

The Lions 46 player squad has developed a distinctive midweek and weekend squad split about it. What has also developed is a very one-dimensional style of game, similar to the Springboks in the late 2000’s, which could favourably be described as “yawn-ball”. This consists of a rushing defensive line and an attack consisting of either a box kick or crashing up through the centres. It relies on forward pack dominance to be successful, and aims to feed off opposition mistakes by placing them under pressure ie: bottom feeders.
The All Blacks style is quite the opposite. They aim to be creative by playing the ball at speed, particularly favouring play in the tramlines – the 15m either side of the pitch ie: top-feeders. They rely on at least forward pack parity to play this style. Both sides set-pieces look very good though the All Blacks will be without hooker Dane Coles who has been a very big part of their set-piece success in the last couple of years.
So will the oppressive or creative style win tonight? The All Blacks have had one hit out vs Samoa last Friday, whilst the Lions have been slowly building into the tour, now 6 games old. Both teams have almost 100% fit players to choose from.

The Teams

The All Backs are missing Dane Coles but otherwise, coach Steve Hansen had a full squad to choose from. Several key All Blacks have had little game time recently, notably the captain Kieran Read hasn’t played since April recovering from a broken thumb and flanker Jerome Kaino only a hit out against Samoa coming off a two month injury layoff. They have also chosen young winger, Reiko Ioane, ahead of incumbent Julian Savea, an indication they would like to play the game wide and fast.
The Lions have lost Stuart Hogg from their original squad but otherwise coach Warren Gatland, ironically a kiwi (NZ’ers dominate national coaches in the UK and Ireland, the exception being an Australian), has a full squad. He’s chosen flanker Peter O’Mahony as his skipper, relegating tour skipper Sam Warburton to the bench. O’Mahony was a late choice for the tour, only playing in Ireland’s final game of the six nations against England and being selected on that one performance. Most of the rest of Gatland’s choices were automatic though Wyn-Jones has been selected ahead of the dynamic Itoje at lock. Interestingly, he has gone for a faster and more creative back three (Williams, Daly, Watson) than expected, perhaps noting the All Blacks kick the ball more than other sides and counter attack opportunities may present themselves.
Conditions at Eden Park are forecast to favor the Lions with expected showers and blustery winds. But favoring the All Blacks is not bad as they haven’t lost at Eden Park since 1994.

@abn loves @steemsports! Very cool concept. Following!

Great post. I live in Lion territory though I am a Sharks supporter.

nice post bro
thanks for information

Awesome thanks for the update!

Great post! Thanks for sharing.

Wow, that last first half was intense. The All Blacks ability to offload is just next level. Seems they're all taking a page from Sonny's book huh.

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