CHRIS FOY’S LIONS VERDICT: Warren Gatland sticks to his guns as he looks to finally down the Boks
CHRIS FOY’S LIONS VERDICT: Warren Gatland sticks to his guns and adds more firepower to finally down the Boks… the game-plan stays the same as the tourists prepare for another ferocious war in Saturday’s decider
- Warren Gatland is sticking to his guns for the final Test against South Africa
- The British and Irish Lions go into Saturday’s clash with the series tied at 1-1
- They’ve reinforced themselves for another war on the ground and in the sky
- It’s going to be all about ferocious collisions once again down in Cape Town
There will be no sudden tactical revolution, at least not initially. The Lions have reinforced themselves for another war – on the ground and in the sky, but this time they have more X-factor firepower in reserve.
Warren Gatland has largely ignored laments about the British and Irish game-plan. He has stuck to his guns, but just added more ammunition.
The Lions have not been set up to run rings around South Africa in the third Test on Saturday. Instead, it looks like they intend to hurl the proverbial kitchen sink at the Springboks. It’s going to be all about ferocious collisions again.
Lions boss Warren Gatland is sticking to his guns for the final Test against South Africa
A midfield partnership of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw is not designed to weave intricate, pretty patterns. This is a sledgehammer Irish centre pairing, who can meet fire with fire in their showdown with Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am.
Further back, it was widely anticipated that Liam Williams and Josh Adams would come in, but certainly not that Duhan van der Merwe would survive the cut.
Scotland’s South African wing is very lucky to keep his place and that selection is surely a reflection of Gatland’s desire for overwhelming physicality in all areas.
Robbie Henshaw (left) is there to meet fire with fire when facing the Boks in the centre
The recalled Liam Williams (right) possess the ability to counter the hosts’ high-ball onslaught
But the recalled Welshman deserve their opportunity. They both possess the ability to counter the hosts’ high-ball onslaught, especially the imperious Williams, who appears so utterly at ease under such pressure.
He can also give the Lions a vital running threat from deep, while Adams is a supreme finisher and will be fervently driven to make a point after being overlooked for the first two Tests.
At half-back, Dan Biggar has been given the benefit of the doubt, now it must also be hoped that he will be given the benefit of more creative freedom.
The Wales No 10 can’t just resort to booting the ball in the air endlessly again.
Duhan van der Merwe has been very lucky to keep his place after a poor second Test
He has more to offer than that. And if Ali Price alongside him is going to be true to his own instincts, he must be allowed to snipe around rucks as well as just box-kick from the back of them.
Up front, Wyn Jones’s selection at loosehead prop is absolutely justified now that he is fit – the Scarlet can bolster the Lions’ scrum and breakdown presence.
Ken Owens was guilty by association with the second-half collapse last Saturday, but Gatland has huge faith in the veteran hooker which must now be repaid with a return to vintage, influential form.
The bench choices reflect ruthlessness and a welcome sense of adventure from the coaches.
Owen Farrell (left) and Taulupe Faletau (right) are the big-name casualties in a quest for greater attacking potency
Taulupe Faletau and Owen Farrell are the big-name casualties in a quest for greater attacking potency.
It is good to see Sam Simmonds and Finn Russell being named among the replacements, as two men capable of exploiting a tiring Bok defence.
If the Lions are again trailing, at least this time they have replacements capable of turning the game upside down, which they didn’t have last week.
LIONS TEAM TO PLAY SOUTH AFRICA IN THIRD TEST
15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) #836
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) #837
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843
1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825
5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839
Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, *Kyle Sinckler, Adam Beard Sam Simmonds, Conor Murray, Finn Russell, Elliot Daly
*subject to outcome of disciplinary hearing