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I'm in a waiting room for the next 2hours so I've got plenty of time to give my Initial thoughts on the Lions.
I really like the team.
Te'o at 12 was a no brainier based on how he's gone in the tour so far...
George North passed up for Elliot Daily I think was a good selection... Daily's more likely to go in and look for work. And while North is a lump of a lad.... he's never really done anything vs NZ before because our wingers are usually just as big but probably have more in other areas to offer. Daily offers a different skillset and he's been excellent under the highball on the tour... which is looking like a key tactic for them.
Warburton on the bench is interesting... but understandable really when you look at it objectively. Sean O'Brien has almost been the best player on the entire tour and I think Warburton probably lacks the size to switch to the blindside and be effective against the All Blacks. It was only ever a tough decision because Warburton was the tour captain. Take the (c) away from Warburton and it's a no brainer IMO...
Owen Farrell & Conor Murray are definitely the best combo at this stage to take on the All Blacks.
I think picking Itoje on the bench is also a good idea... the REAL strength of this All Blacks team is its bench. While most sides usually suffer almost a drop in quality when the bench comes on... the All Blacks have such a competitive environment that when they call upon the subs the intensity doesn't drop but often actually increases significantly.
The beauty of a team like the Lions is that as they draw upon 4 nations they have the depth now to actually match the All Blacks in this department. So having guys like Itoje on the bench will actually play a massive part in deciding the entire series...
The only big shock was Reiko Ioane for Julian Savea. Savea has been a great All Black... and really still is a high, high level winger... but he's been skiddish under the highball for periods in his career and it looks like that's the type of game the Lions intend on playing. Ioane is just a more sound option in that area but also dynamic in his own right. I think the selection is a horses for course type of pick... I could see Ioane do decent vs the Lions and then end up being dropped for Savea in the rugby championship.
Lienert-Brown was incredible unlucky to miss out on the starting centre spot but Crotty is really the incumbent and has more than earned the benefit of the doubt in this instance.
Aaron Smith ahead of TJ is probably more about what each provides the team. Smith is more steady and probably better to start with where TJ is more explosive and provides punch from the bench.
Everyone else makes sense... Read back now... probably abit underdone but with a guy like him you'll take underdone over most other players peak...
The key to the whole series as I said in the Lions part is the bench... the All Blacks have such a strong bench... Ardie Savea, TJ & Lienart-Brown add some serious punch and ability off the bench. The Lions need to somehow match that line up.
First test tonight. Very strong looking lions team.
People are picking a close game but I get the feeling the All Blacks bench will pull away just after half time and then may even put a score on.
Looking forward to the SBW vs Te'o match up... Te'o has been really good on this tour... but SBW is an entirely different beat to anything he's faced in RU.
Which is funny to say considering they have matched up in the NRL a whole heap of times... but SBW is such a savvy second-five with his subtle changes in line as well as the massive improvement he's made at the breakdown where he now actively competes and actually even turns the ball over consistently. He's turned in to a genuine all round 12.
Hopefully I won't be too drunk when i get back from the pub after the game to post some reaction...
Great line speed and harassment from Lions forced ABs into errors - we should have won, and of course the farcical refereeing at the end left everyone bemused - there was a penalty there, one way or the other, to award it and then effectively chicken out was lame (they decided Read didn't infringe so it's an AB penalty, simple - if they ruled Read infringed that is understandable too - but what happened was laughable)
Firstly, the Crockett penalty. Crockett tries rolling away but a Lions guy falls on him. The halfback starts slapping Crocketts shoulder and then deliberately throws the ball into him. It was cynical. If the Lions are happy to do that, they are themselves quite pathetic.
Then that penalty. You can only go to a TMO to check on potential foul play or if a try is scored. Neither occurred. The referee is not entitled to change his decision therefore.
Worse still, if he plays advantage, Anton Leinart Brown had taken the dropped ball and was a really good chance of going under the sticks.
lets not forget the AB's have been together & training as a team since January, while the Lions get together a few weeks before the tour starts - bit hard to gel as a team when you have a few games and training sessions together before a test match, & it's made worse by the NH clubs not releasing players till the last minute