LIONS V ALL BLACKS – THE MEN TO MAKE THE DIFFERENCE
After weeks of build-up – and months of speculation – the time has finally arrived for the British and Irish Lions to square off against the All Blacks.
An indifferent trip thus far has seen our boys written off by some – but in truth, this Saturday’s tie, live on Sky Sports 1, marks the start of the real business end (the other games were just to get you in the mood!). Eden Park is the setting for the first test, and is widely regarded as a lion’s den for visiting teams (which surely means Warren Gatland’s charges should feel right at home!). We’ve selected the main men to watch on both sides of the park...
Ireland’s scrum-half is the best in the world, bar none (we might be biased – but then we’re not the only ones saying it!). His kicking game should factor early and often, while his sniping runs around the fringes have been the undoing of many a defence; the All Blacks themselves know well after a wonderful try in Chicago last November.
Whether it’s No. 10 or No. 12 on his back, the Saracens man is an elite playmaker: his cultured right boot and sophisticated passing have become invaluable to the backline. Add in his watertight defence – and, if necessary, his enviable goalkicking – and you’re left with a player who could be a difference maker.
The Welsh back-rower looks to be hitting top form right on queue, with his dynamic ball-carrying and energetic tackling featuring prominently thus far. While by no means a lone wolf (or lone Lion, as it were), he’s capable of taking the game into his own hands – and a big individual performance could speak volumes.
With 45 tries in just 52 games, the winger is a lethal finisher. A massive physical presence (6’4” and 103kg – not the type you’d want to meet in a dark alley), it’s not difficult to see how he earned the nickname ‘The Bus’ – it’s vital the Lions put the brakes on this guy!
With younger brothers Scott and Jordie also in the squad, it’s a real family affair for the Barretts – but the oldest sibling remains the golden child. Ably stepping into the boots of Dan Carter, he’s soft of hands and fleet of foot – a real handful. What’s more, we played our own part in developing his skills – as a youngster, he spent a year in Co. Meath and learned to play Gaelic Football!
He might be the tallest man on the field, but there’s more to him than sheer size; his galloping runs are as impressive as they are devastating. It’s in disrupting the visitors’ pack that he’ll be most effective here, though – and with both the set piece and the maul seen as targets for the Lions, he should be right at the coalface!
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