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Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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The Lions Form XV – Round Three

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Jim Kayes     27 Feb 2017     Getty Images

The most common positions on the list were centre and first five, followed by lock and prop. But it should surprise no one that a halfback topped the list. Gareth Edwards toured three times with the Lions, the Welsh wizard compiling 574 points from 10 tests that included five wins, three draws and two defeats.

This year’s Lions won’t have a halfback as good as Edwards, but they have four, or five, who are playing pretty good rugby in the Six Nations.

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England’s Danny Care had a tough first half against an Italian side that used the law book cleverly to slow down his clearance, but he had a strong start to the second half with a try and a hand in the try to win Elliot Daly before Ben Youngs came on and played well too.

Scotland’s Ali Price was also very good in their win against Wales with his pace and ability to break free, and his service to Finn Russell was spot on, allowing Russell to shine. Equally, Ireland’s Conor Murray had another excellent match, scoring a very good try, and his partnership with Jonny Sexton allowed the first five a winning return from injury, Ireland convincing winners against France.
It must be difficult for any Welsh halfback to play in Edwards’ shadow and though he was at times a villain in Wales 29-19 loss to Scotland, Rhys Webb was also very good, running strongly with the ball and quick with the pass.

The Lions’ halfback will be key to their success in New Zealand. We know they’ll have a decent pack (though none of the scrums are especially potent at the moment) but they’ll need quick service to the backs and halfbacks that can keep them moving forward and vary their own play. That’s even more important if Aaron Smith’s able to re-find his magic giving the All Blacks a trio of world class nines.

Just as crucial will be who starts at 10 and it seems, at this stage, to be a straight contest between Sexton and Wales’ Dan Biggar. What I like about Sexton, and his deputy Paddy Jackson, is that they can straighten the attack with a short burst and offload. It’s a bit of a Kiwi trait and is clear evidence of Joe Schmidt’s influence. Owen Farrell could probably do it too, but he’s playing at second five for England.

When you follow in the footsteps of two other Welsh legends in Barry John and Phil Bennett, wearing the Lion’s 10 jersey may be just as daunting - and inspiring - as it is for whoever pulls on the halfback’s shirt.

*With this week’s team, by dint of a shortage of quality No8s, I’ve shifted CJ Stander there. He’s a great ball runner and defender so will be good at eight.

Round three form XV
15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland)
14 Tommy Seymour (Scotland)
13 Gary Ringrose (Ireland)
12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)
11 Elliot Daly (England)
10 Jonny Sexton (Ireland)
9 Conor Murray (Ireland)
8 CJ Stander(Ireland)
7 Sean O’Brien (Ireland)
6 Sam Warburton (Wales
5 Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)
4 Joe Launchbury (England)
3 Tom Francis (Wales)
2 Rory Best(Ireland)
1 Joe Marler (England)