NZ cen­tre aims to ex­pose Sex­ton-far­rell com­bi­na­tion

Irish Examiner - Sport - - RUGBY - Si­mon Lewis

All Blacks cen­tre Anton Lienert-brown has re­vealed his side will look to cap­i­talise on the ab­sence of Ben Te’o from the Li­ons mid­field as they seek to ex­pose the per­ceived de­fen­sive frail­ties of twin play­mak­ers Johnny Sex­ton and Owen Far­rell.

Bri­tish & Irish Li­ons head coach War­ren Gat­land will play two fly-halves in a 10-12 part­ner­ship for to­mor­row’s sec­ond Test at West­pac Sta­dium, a do-or-die game for the tourists af­ter they lost the first Test 30-15 at Eden Park last Satur­day. Yet the bid to cre­ate more at­tack­ing op­tions for the Li­ons back­line has been seized on by world cham­pi­ons New Zealand as an op­por­tu­nity for their own of­fence with Sex­ton’s pro­mo­tion from the bench to fly-half push­ing last week’s start­ing 10 Far­rell to in­side cen­tre at the ex­pense of Te’o, who must set­tle for a place on the bench.

Te’o was tasked with con­tain­ing the of­fload­ing game of New Zealand num­ber 12 Sonny Bill Wil­liams and the All Blacks’ mid­field part­ner Lienert-brown, who will re­place the in­jured Ryan Crotty, be­lieves the for­mer Le­in­ster man’s ab­sence will clear the path to the Li­ons fly-half’s chan­nel.

“I guess Te’o is prob­a­bly go­ing to punch the line a bit more,” Lienert-brown said. “With the two 10s at first and sec­ond (five-eighth) they will prob­a­bly bring a bit more raz­zle. It means a dif­fer­ent mind­set in de­fence — they are go­ing to be show­ing dif­fer­ent pic­tures so we have to be pre­pared to look for those.

“That’s a strength of (Te’o’s) and it was part of the game plan to run down that 10 chan­nel. They have two 10s there this week and that could be some­thing we look to ex­pose.”

Lienert-brown is one of two changes to the New Zealand back­line, with Waisake Naholo com­ing on to the wing as Is­rael Dagg moves to full-back for the in­jured Ben Smith, stood down for the rest of the se­ries fol­low­ing a con­cus­sion suf­fered in the first Test.

Dagg be­lieves the Sex­ton­far­rell com­bi­na­tion will mean a busy night in the All Blacks back­field as the Li­ons up their kick­ing game in what will be test­ing con­di­tions, with rain and winds forecast for Welling­ton around kick-off time.

“They are both great kick­ers and they have a lot of great vi­sion,” said Dagg, who played against the pair for much of the Li­ons’ tour game against the Cru­saders three weeks ago.

“They have two guys who can play ei­ther side of the ruck so as a full­back you have to be work­ing pretty hard ei­ther side. It gives them a few op­tions.

“I thought Te’o went pretty well last week. He played well last week­end but they have the lux­ury of bring­ing in qual­ity play­ers. Sex­ton and Far­rell are qual­ity 10s. They do have that lux­ury of chop­ping and chang­ing. This is go­ing to be make or break for them and for us as well.”

All Blacks cen­tre Anton Lienert-brown: ‘They have two 10s there and that could be some­thing we look to ex­pose.’

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