Gat­land urges Lawes to get in­volved

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

WELLING­TON: Lock Court­ney Lawes will ar­guably be the player that Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions coach War­ren Gat­land pays most at­ten­tion to against the Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes to­day as he con­sid­ers his side for the sec­ond Test against the All Blacks on Satur­day.

The 28-year-old Lawes has been un­lucky on the tour, fail­ing a con­cus­sion test fol­low­ing the 23-22 loss to the Otago High­landers, then need­ing to be re­assessed for another head knock against the Chiefs the fol­low­ing week.

How­ever, his ath­letic and com­bat­ive part­ner­ship with com­pa­triot Maro Itoje against the Auck­land Blues had been one of the highlights of the early tour and the pair looked to be in con­tention for the Test lock­ing roles.

The head in­juries, how­ever, re­duced Lawes’ op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­press Gat­land, who se­lected Ge­orge Kruis and Alun Wyn Jones for the first Test last Satur­day, which the All Blacks won 30-15.

The vis­i­tors, who had been ex­pected to dom­i­nate the All Blacks up front, how­ever, were forced onto the back foot by a supremely phys­i­cal home side and Wyn Jones looked to be strug­gling to keep up with the pace of the match.

Itoje im­pressed with his en­ergy off the bench at Eden Park, and Gat­land in­di­cated that he could be el­e­vated into a start­ing role in the sec­ond Test, while he would also look to in­ject more phys­i­cal­ity, pos­si­bly send­ing a mes­sage to Lawes to get in­volved and im­pose him­self.

“We might have to shake (se­lec­tion) up a lit­tle bit,” said Gat­land.

“Some­one like Maro Itoje made an im­pact com­ing off the bench and was very phys­i­cal.

“The dis­ap­point­ing thing is we were dom­i­nated in the col­li­sions in at­tack and de­fence. They were pretty ag­gres­sive at the breakdown, came hard and won the col­li­sions. If I was play­ing... and I felt that I was phys­i­cally dom­i­nated, I’d be a lit­tle bit dis­ap­pointed in my­self and I’d be do­ing ev­ery­thing I could phys­i­cally do the fol­low­ing week to make sure I fixed that area of the game.”

The Hur­ri­canes will also be look­ing to boost their form ahead of the Su­per Rugby play­offs with an im­proved ef­fort in the for­wards af­ter they were shut down by the Waikato Chiefs and Can­ter­bury Cru­saders in re­cent matches. They are cur­rently sec­ond in the NZ con­fer­ence.

“The phys­i­cal­ity level will be mas­sive, be­cause they are big boys,” Hur­ri­canes cap­tain Brad Shields told re­porters yes­ter­day.

“We have to be dom­i­nant in our line speed and get­ting off the line and put­ting them un­der pressure. When we go well, then the team goes well and we can set our back­line alight.”

The Hur­ri­canes back­line has been boosted by the re­lease of three play­ers from the All Blacks squad, full­back Jordie Bar­rett, winger Julian Savea and cen­tre Ngani Laumape.

Savea ar­guably has the most to prove af­ter he was over­looked for the first Test with Rieko Ioane grab­bing two tries from the left wing, but as­sis­tant coach John Plumtree said he ex­pected the en­tire team to per­form to­day.

“Ev­ery time this Hur­ri­canes side runs out I ex­pect them to win,” said Plumtree, who coached the Welling­ton pro­vin­cial side against the 2005 tourists.

“That Lions team is su­perb and any in­ter­na­tional coach wouldn’t mind tak­ing them into the Six Na­tions, so we know what a tough task it will be.

“We will need to play above our­selves to get a re­sult.” – Reuters

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