With the kick-off the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand, emotions and excitement are running high. As the team builds for that first Test on June 24th, players will be assessed over the next few weeks, and some will surely play themselves into contention for the starting XV.
To be a Lion is the opportunity of a lifetime for many, as a spot in the final squad doesn’t present itself often. With some uncontrollable factors such as injury and family matters compounded on top of the pressure of recent form, there is a real buzz in rugby circles. And even if a player is selected, there is no guaranatee he will even step on the field.
Warren Gatland will have his game plans, surely, but what can’t be banked on is the hope that some player will emerge as an X- factor. The opening game against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians was a tough one, but a somewhat rusty Lions squad certainly had rust to shed. There will certainly be much sterner games than this, but who is putting themselves in Lions Test XV contention.
5 British and Lions Players in Contention
We knew what his presence would give and he was all over the pitch. He scrummaged well and linked with backs. He did simple things well and looked fresh and dangerous. For this man, the season just gets better as he remains in the form of his life. More should be expected from this young prop. He may not make test starting, but would be a great impact player of the bench.
2/ Ben Te’o
Just what Gatland wants, Te’o is a big center who keep defences guessing, running the inside shoulder channel to create space out wide. He played his part well with some nice line and number of breaks. Te’o is only just finding his feet at the international level, but he did himself no harm with this display. There is much to like in this player and he could well be play a big part on this Tour.
3/ Owen Farrell
He came on for Jonny Sexton, who is not in his best form at the moment and is in everyone’s starting 10. With this display from Sexton, one wonders where Gatland will go from here. Farrell increased the temp of the game when he came on, organising, then attacking line-up before breakdowns. He was picked at 12 for England and could play 12 for Lions, but at moment he may have the edge on Sexton given current form. We wait with interest.
4/ Taulupe Faletau
Losing Billy Vunipola before the Tour started was a big loss to the Lions, but this player can fill in his shoes adequately. Faletau gave a great performance at 8, with strong breakaways from scrum and carried well around the pitch. He caused a nuisance at the breakdown, creating some important turnovers. His try-saving tackle in first half was a game changer.
5/ Ross Moriarty
Abrasive and with a hard work rate, Moriarty created some good strong carries. One feels this could be a huge Tour for him. Ross is peaking at the right time, continuing from where he left off with the Welsh backrow in Six Nations. There is strong competition in this position, but he is sure to be given more game time to show what he can bring.
More Challenges Ahead
It’s very early days and time is needed to let this squad of players settle and build chemistry. The Tour is a crazy schedule and much tougher games are ahead where Super Rugby sides will include some top players. British Lions have to improve at breakdown and its attacking game.
Let the Tour begin!
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