After an astonishing opening result our Rugby man @Chugger runs the microscope over last week’s triumph and looks forward to the Lions next match (tomorrow at 11am) V’s Western Force.
First some thoughts on the 59-8 hammering that the British and Irish Lions dished out on Saturday. As with any tour such as this, it’s always difficult to know how the players are going to gel together, whether the moves they have worked on whilst on the training paddock are going to come off and whether their opposition, also a scratch team (more so than the Lions), are going to pull a blinder out of the bag and frighten the living daylights out of the team they are playing.
Well, it was a bit of a mixed bag I thought. Certainly no-one from the British Lions coaching staff will be complaining about the result and there were some notable performances out there, Mike Philips was back to his abrasive best, Jamie Roberts looked like the payer of the series he was voted in 2009, once again taking great lines in attack and organising an unfamiliar line up defensively. Then of course there was Paul O’Connell, but more of him later in our One to Watch.
Owen Farrell got his first start at 10, and it was a tough one. In saying that some of the abuse that has been dished out with regards to his performance has certainly been unwarranted, yes he made some errors and yes he retaliated against a Schalk Brits punch but conditions were tough, the pressure was on and it was his first match of the tour. Expect to see him step up his game later in the tour.
Others putting themselves about and worthy of mention included Tipuric and Faletau in the back row, the mighty Adam Jones in the front row and Alex Cuthbert on the wing who chipped in with a brace from the back three. Indeed he may have been joined by Sean Maitland in the opening minutes had he been able to gather, but such is rugby!
Following each match I will be highlighting a player who will have given coach Gatland food for thought in terms of test selection, this week’s One to Watch is the resurgent Paul O’Connell. In the absence of Same Warburton, O’Connell took the captaincy reins and showed why he was picked to lead the 2009 tour with an all action display, great in the line out, strong in the tight and dynamic in his leadership. It appears the enforced break through injury has recharged the batteries of the big man and second row looks set to be another almighty battle to get that all important test spot.
There will be no better Bookie to be dealing with than William Hill in the lead up to the tour, truly the most respected name in British betting will be proving you with its usual range of tips, podcast, interviews as well as prices on every major sporting event this summer – they are also offering a fantastic free £25 bet for all new customers! *Just Click Here to Sign up*
Onto Western Force on Wednesday then. Early talk has centred more around what appears to be a weakened Force side being selected with some even suggesting a Super 15 match against the Waratah’s a few days later carrying more importance for them. Indeed some commentators have stated that this is both insulting and devaluing for the both the Lions team and its supporters. I have to say, I’m inclined to agree. The last Lions tour in Australia was 12 years ago in 2001 and the amount of money being brought with this tour runs into the multi-millions, indeed the ARU will be glad to see them on their shores with talk of their current concerns over finances. Surely these teams will want to put on a show for their fans?
Regardless, the Lions have once again selected a strong side who are captained by the senior statesman of the squad, Brian O’Driscoll. He forms an interesting centre partnership with Tuilagi, expect brute force allied to no little skill. The back three is once again a strong one with Bowe and North on the wings and Halfpenny at fullback, indeed there is a strong case to make for this being the test back three and as with the last game, I expect them to get on the scoresheet.
In the pack, there is still no place for the injured Warburton although he is expected to return along with Gethin Jenkins for Saturday’s game. The back row once again throws up potentially interesting selections with the all action Croft (a good tip to get on the scoresheet) alongside international teammates O’Brien and Heaslip.
Some of the Force players have hinted at roughing up the Lions players, getting under their skin so to speak and I would expect no less, but these boys have a lot of experience of playing at the highest level and I simply can’t see them having their feathers ruffled.
Following the opening win against the Barbarians, there will be no let up from Gatland’s squad, they will want to emulate that team by winning and winning big. I’m going for the Lions by 30+ points.
Recommend British and Irish Lions to Win with -34 point Handicap – 4/11 with William Hill
British Lions: Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Brian O'Driscoll (captain), Manu Tuilagi, George North, Jonny Sexton; Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Dan Cole, Alun Wyn Jones, Ian Evans, Tom Croft, Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Matt Stevens, Geoff Parling, Toby Faletau, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Sean Maitland.
Western Force: Sam Christie, Dane Haylett-Petty, Ed Stubbs, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Corey Brown; Sam Norton-Knight, Brett Sheehan; Salesi Manu, James Hilterbrand, Salesi Ma'afu, Toby Lynn, Phoenix Battye, Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson (capt), Richard Brown.
Replacements: Hugh Roach, Sione Kolo, Tim Metcher, Ben Matwijow Lachlan McCaffrey, Alby Mathewson, Nick Haining, Junior Rasolea.
Follow our Rugby expert here- @Chugger
To claim your £25 Free Bet from William Hill:
2. Open a new account
3. Place a £25 bet
4. William Hill will match that deposit with a free bet of the same value