herald

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Gats keeps same guns for glory

Leinster loose head McGrath loses out in close call to start

Conor Murray during a training session
Conor Murray during a training session
Owen Farrell and Jonathan Sexton

Warren Gatland has refused to act on his threat to make one or two men pay for their indiscipline by naming the same British & Irish Lions side for the third test at Eden Park on Saturday.

It is a case of the same again as they bid to come-from-behind to make history.

"We felt we should reward the players for the result and the courage that they showed," said Gatland.

"(For) coming from behind from 18-9 down, digging themselves out of a hole and then finishing strongly in that last 10 to 15 minutes."

This means the Irish half-backs Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton are retained inside a second playmaker in Owen Farrell.

Tadhg Furlong will have to lock down the scrum and apply his skills to a variety of roles outside the set-piece.

Breaking

Seán O'Brien just has to keep doing what he has been doing in breaking the gain line, slowing ruck ball and minding the narrow channels through which Ngani Laumape will be hurtling.

Irish prop Jack McGrath must have been the man most upset as Mako Vunipola has been forgiven for not one, but two late hits on Beaudan Barrett.

Liam Williams has been able to prove his fitness after pulling up lame lame in training on Tuesday.

"There are some players who are pretty disappointed not to be selected and I understand that," said the coach.

"It is what you would expect from competitive top athletes, they back themselves."

Steve Hansen has shown faith in talent over experience to draft Jordie Barrett, 20, and Ngani Laumape, 24, into his test fifteen.

There is also a recall for Julian Savea, statistically the deadliest finisher in world rugby.

Hansen has been partly pressed into these decisions by the unavailability of Sonny Bill Williams and Waisake Naholo, while Reiko Ioane doesn't even make the squad.

Israel Dagg moves from full-back to wing as speculation persists that Jordie Barrett will take over the place-kicking from his older brother Beauden.

Malaki Fekitoa is the only difference on the bench as back-up for the three-quarters.

While New Zealand have been cooped up in Auckland since the weekend, The Lions landed there on Tuesday to fine-tune their preparations for Eden Park.

The decision to bask in the beauty of Queenstown in the shadow of the Remarkables mountain range suited their step away from the heat of publicity.

"This is the time to switch on again," noted kicking coach Neil Jenkins.

The tourists could not cope with what New Zealand had in store for them in the first test at the same stadium.

However, the pendulum has swung back in favour of The Lions with the second test victory and the suspension of Sonny Bill Williams.

"It's been intense. We know what's coming our way," said the former Wales out-half.

"As Graham Henry once said about All Black losses, their boys will have been eating barbed wire from Saturday onwards."

The hour has already come for the players to take hold of the reins from here on in.

"It's more letting the boys take over.

"They're playing the game, they are the ones on the pitch.

"Hopefully, that's the way forward and the way the players want it as well."

"There's a true camaraderie and togetherness in the squad, and that will shine through again on Saturday."

It remans to be seen whether what they have left is enough.

New Zealand: J Barrett; I Dagg, A Lienert-Brown, N Lamaupe, J Savea; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, S Cane, K Read (capt). Replacements: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea; TJ Perenara, A Cruden, M Fekitoa.

Ireland: L Williams; A Watson, J Davies, O Farrell, E Daly; J Sexton, C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong, M Itoje, AW Jones, S Warburton (capt), S O'Brien, T Faletau. Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, K Sinckler, C Lawes, CJ Stander; R Webb, B Te'o, J Nowell.

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