It’s that time of the week again, another Lions game, another team selected by Warren Gatland and another step closer to the eagerly anticipated first test. First, lets talk about the Lions previous two matches.
Last Saturday, the Lions finally faced an examination worthy of their status as one of the world’s premier touring sides when they played Queensland Reds. Although it wasn’t a particularly high scoring encounter, the intensity was there for all to see. Indeed, there was cause for concern with both Tommy Bowe and Manu Tuilagi being forced off through injury during this bruising encounter. The Lions also had to contend with Quade Cooper, a man with a point to prove to Robbie Deans the Australian coach, and he went about it in his usual brash style. The Lions will certainly be glad to see the back of him after Deans left him out of his final squad for the test series. Ultimately the additional power, skill and intensity the Lions bring with them to these games won through with Ben Youngs scoring a scrappy try off the back of a Reds scrum. As with my previous review I’ve picked out One to Watch, this time it was a certain George North, the Lions will be pleased with his showing, the giant wing went on a number of bruising runs that will make the Australian team, if not the world, sit up and take note. Northampton have secured themselves a world class player there.
All prices provided in this article are from our friends at Lasdrbrokes who are running this great promotion for new customers – Open a new Ladbrokes betting account and bet £10, win or lose you will get three free £10 bets – register here.
Following Saturdays encounter, we were treated to another try fest when the Lions took on and thrashed the Combined Queensland-NSW Country team at the Hunter Stadium in Newcastle. Sadly we had to witness another completely one sided affair as the Lions ran sixty four point to nil winners. You really have to wonder whether these games even match the intensity of the training sessions that the Lions are being put through, indeed it has been noted in some quarters that the fitness levels of the players seemed to drop for exactly that reason, Gatland had bashed them up in training to get them test match ready. Anyway, enough of my grumbling for the week, lets look at the positives, 10 tries scored, 0 points conceded. The Lions side controlled matters in a slick and assured way for the first 40 minutes, although there will be some concerns about the way they dropped off somewhat in the second half with a few lineout’s in particular going astray. Our One to Watch for this game was Stuart Hogg, any fears about the fullback’s ability to play in the pivotal position of stand-off were washed away after the stand in number 10 had an assured game with both the boot and ball in hand. There may well be a case for him to cover both ten and fullback when the test squad is being picked.
Onto this Saturday’s game against New South Wales Waratahs, Gatland has picked another strong side (what Lion’s team isn’t?) which many in the media are starting to pick apart for potential test combinations. Certainly if I was working towards my test team, now would be the time where I would be allowing those players to gel together nicely in preparation for the tests. That said, you never know with Gatland. He keeps his cards close to his chest, and his lineout calls even closer if this week’s reports of a wedding videographer being thrown out of a training session are to be believed. Gatland is adamant that the test side will not be picked until after next Tuesday’s match and there are still some players who have an opportunity to stake a claim to be part of that 23. Those I believe to be in that position would be Tom Youngs, Tom Croft, Sean Maitland and even the captain himself Sam Warburton, who is facing increasing competition from Justin Tipuric for the openside berth.
I think this may well be the closest game of the tour thus far, so don’t expect the try extravaganza of their previous match. As before, I’m tipping Tom Croft to get over the tryline as a back rower who often finds himself in the wing position and Heaslip who is another not found in the tight as much as you would expect. Halfpenny to do everything again? You wouldn’t bet against it! Lions by 10-15 points.
Lions to win by 11-20 points – 12/5
Croft to score a try anytime- 2/1
Heaslip to score a try anytime- 9/4
Lions team: Leigh Halfpenny; Sean Maitland, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton, Mike Phillips; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell , Tom Croft, Sam Warburton (capt), Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Rob Kearney
How to bet with Ladbrokes:
Click this link to Ladbrokes’ promotion > register for free > use promo code THREE 10 > claim your free bets.