Sex­ton and Far­rell both to start

Marlborough Express - - SPORT - STUFF

The Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions have gone with two play­mak­ers as they look to level their se­ries against the All Blacks.

Johnny Sex­ton will start at No 10, with Owen Far­rell shift­ing out to No 12, in one of three per­son­nel changes War­ren Gat­land has made for the sec­ond test in Welling­ton to­mor­row.

Tour cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton also comes into the start­ing XV, re­plac­ing last week­end’s skip­per Peter O’Ma­hony at No 6, while young lock Maro Itoje re­places Ge­orge Kruis.

The de­ci­sion to play Sex­ton and Far­rell means Ben Te’o drops to the bench, de­spite be­ing one of the Lions’ most im­pres­sive play­ers dur­ing the 30-15 loss in Auck­land last week­end. Kruis and O’Ma­hony have dropped out of the match day squad en­tirely.

Us­ing the Ir­ish and English first-fives in tan­dem had been widely mooted prior to the tour, but it goes against form for Gat­land, who usu­ally prefers to have two ball car­ri­ers in his mid­field.

The pair have played just 76 min­utes to­gether so far on tour - 52 against the Crusaders, when an early in­jury to Jonathan Davies forced Gat­land to reshuf­fle his back­line, and 24 at the end of the first test - and this will be the first time they have fea­tured to­gether from the start of a match.

They didn’t cre­ate a lot against the All Blacks last week­end, as the Lions sought to get back into the game, but the onus will be on them to cre­ate plenty in Welling­ton.

That Itoje has come in is no shock, but it is in­trigu­ing that he is re­plac­ing Kruis, his Sara­cens and Eng­land team­mate, and not Alun Wyn Jones, the Welsh vet­eran.

The other change - War­bur­ton in for O’Ma­hony - wasn’t un­ex­pected ei­ther, with the Welsh loose for­ward im­pres­sive off the bench last week­end.

In a state­ment an­nounc­ing his team, Gat­land said the Sex­tonFar­rell com­bi­na­tion gave him an at­tack­ing op­tion, with both of them play­ing well so far on tour.

‘‘We cre­ated op­por­tu­ni­ties in the first test and there were a few that we didn’t fin­ish,’’ Gat­land said.

‘‘There were lots of pos­i­tives from the first test but we were dis­ap­pointed that we put our­selves in a po­si­tion to put the All Blacks un­der pres­sure and to get back into the game and we let it slip.

‘‘This is a big chance for these play­ers to go out and show what they are ca­pa­ble of on Satur­day night. For the play­ers re­tained from the first test it’s an op­por­tu­nity for them to step up and to show an im­prove­ment be­cause in­di­vid­u­ally they were dis­ap­pointed and you have an­other group com­ing in who are also des­per­ate to seize their chance.’’

Gat­land also ad­dressed the changes to his for­ward pack.

‘‘We saw Maro’s im­pact in the first test and he will bring an edge and a phys­i­cal­ity, as will Sam War­bur­ton in terms of pres­sure on the ball.

‘‘It’s tough on Peter O’Ma­hony who has done a bril­liant job for us. We had to look at the bench and we felt that CJ Stander’s ball car­ry­ing and de­fence was the right choice for the bench. You have to make the tough calls and pick what is the right team and the right com­bi­na­tions for a test match.’’

On the bench, Court­ney Lawes and CJ Stander have come in to fill the holes left by Itoje and War­bur­ton’s pro­mo­tions, while Jack Now­ell re­places Leigh Half­penny as the third back.


Owen Far­rell will shift out to No 12 for Satur­day’s sec­ond test, with Ben Te’o drop­ping to the bench.

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