PREVIEW: All Blacks v British & Irish Lions Second Test

Getty Images

Lynn McConnell     29 Jun 2017     Getty Images

New Zealand v British & Irish Lions, Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 7.35pm, Saturday 1 July 2017

Wellington hosts the 40th Test match between the sides and the All Blacks have won 30 of those encounters. The Test is the 10th staged in Wellington and the second at Westpac Stadium where the Lions have still to win a Test. They had better luck at Athletic Park where they recorded victories in 1971 13-3 and 1993 20-7. In total the Lions have played 109 Tests since their first game against South Africa in 1891. They have won 40 of those games, although some tours, until 1939 to New Zealand, at least, were not fully representational. Ten games have been drawn.


Changes made by the Lions for the Test focus immediately on whether the inclusion of Maro Itoje alongside Welsh veteran Alun Wyn Jones will be sufficient to contain the All Blacks locking pair of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock. There is no doubt Itoje brings an edge to the mobility of the Lions tight forwards but can he make the difference on his own against two locks who, as a combination, are the best in the world?

Similarly in the backline where the starting pair of Jonathon Sexton and Owen Farrell at first and second five-eighths have not started all tour. Not only will they be required to gel under the pressure the All Blacks will impose from the outset, they also have to somehow contain All Blacks second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams in a way that Ben Te'o did very well in the first Test. 

The decision harks back to the 2005 tour when Sir Clive Woodward paired Stephen Jones and Johnny Wilkinson in the five-eighths to no great effect. They will ensure a different kicking game, a two-pronged approach but will their lineout be able to deliver?
The Lions will believe they can only advance on their first Test effort through their back three fullback Liam Williams and wings Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly. They will also sense some opportunities to pressure the New Zealanders with Israel Dagg back at fullback and Waisake Naholo and Rieko Ioane on the wings. 

The possibilities are fascinating, especially if poorer weather is thrown into the equation.That suggests the breakdown is going to be important for the Lions to allow them to mount their attack with kicks and quick following up whereas the All Blacks will be looking to utilise fast support play and counter-attacking impetus to spread the Lions around the park.

If the Lions are able to stay close to the All Blacks until the last 30 minutes, their bench looks better equipped to cope with a running game. Lock Courtney Lawes can be expected to substitute for Jones while CJ Stander's introduction in the loose will give the side some hard running strength. 

Whether Te'o will have enough time to make an impact will depend on the game situation. The All Blacks have their own strike power off the bench and it is not difficult to imagine Ngani Laumape being able to make an impression when he enters the field.

New Zealand: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Sam Cane, 8.Kieran Read (captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Rieko Ioane, 12.Sonny Bill Williams, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Waisake Naholo, 15.Israel Dagg.

Substitutes: 16.Nathan Harris, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Scott Barrett, 20.Ardie Savea, 21.TJ Perenara, 22.Aaron Cruden, 23.Ngani Laumape.

British & Irish Lions: 1.Mako Vunipola, 2.Jamie George, 3.Tadhg Furlong, 4.Maro Itoje, 5.Alun Wyn Jones, 6.Sam Warburton (captain), 7.Sean O'Brien, 8.Taulupe Faletau, 9.Conor Murray, 10.Johnny Sexton, 11.Elliot Daly, 12.Owen Farrell, 13.Jonathan Davies, 14.Anthony Watson, 15.Liam Williams.

Substitutes: 16.Ken Owens, 17.Jack McGrath, 18.Kyle Sinckler, 19.Courtney Lawes, 20.CJ Stander, 21.Rhys Webb, 22.Ben Te'o, 23.Jack Nowell.