Skip­per War­bur­ton to lead Gat­land’s break­down war

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

WELLING­TON: The de­ci­sion to start Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions tour cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton,

pic­tured, in tomorrow’s cru­cial sec­ond Test is a re­flec­tion of coach War­ren Gat­land’s de­sire to at­tack the break­down more and match the phys­i­cal­ity of the All Blacks.

War­bur­ton was not in­cluded in the start­ing side for last week’s 30-15 first Test loss at Eden Park, with Sean O’Brien pre­ferred at open­side flank and Peter O’Ma­hony lead­ing the side from the blind­side of the scrum.

How­ever, af­ter be­ing tar­geted in close by the All Blacks, the Lions saw their im­pres­sive de­fen­sive line speed out wide throt­tled and they lost the col­li­sions, prompt­ing Gat­land to de­mand greater phys­i­cal­ity tomorrow.

War­bur­ton’s el­e­va­tion to the start­ing side means Gat­land has gone for a dual open­side part­ner­ship that com­ple­ments each other.

O’Brien is the more ag­gres­sive with ball in hand, while War­bur­ton is a more de­fen­sive player and will un­doubt­edly be tar­get­ing the break­down along with the com­bat­ive Maro Itoje, who has also been el­e­vated from the bench to re­place Ge­orge Kruis. “We need to get some pres­sure on the ball and that’s some­thing Sam is ex­cel­lent at do­ing,” Gat­land told re­porters yes­ter­day. “We are aware of how phys­i­cal they are and we have to match that phys­i­cal­ity in this cru­cial Test en­counter (tomorrow).” The match at Welling­ton Re­gional Sta­dium is cru­cial for the vis­i­tors, who must win it if they are to re­tain any hope of be­com­ing just the sec­ond Lions side to achieve a se­ries vic­tory against the All Blacks.

While the world cham­pi­ons out-mus­cled the Lions last week, the vis­i­tors put them un­der sus­tained pres­sure for long pe­ri­ods and cre­ated nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties but were un­able to fin­ish them off, an is­sue that has both­ered them through­out the tour. ‘ALL ABOUT SPACE’ While Gat­land said the All Blacks de­served to win the first Test, he added that his side had let them­selves down by fail­ing to main­tain pos­ses­sion.

“We did play some ex­cel­lent rugby and when we kept the ball we stretched them and put them un­der pres­sure,” Gat­land said.

“We just need to keep the ball for longer pe­ri­ods (and) … it’s just about tak­ing those chances this week.”

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has stuck with a pack who were im­pres­sive last week and beefed up the phys­i­cal­ity of his mid­field with An­ton Lienert-Brown el­e­vated from the bench, for the in­jured Ryan Grotty, to join Sonny Bill Wil­liams.

Is­rael Dagga has moved to full­back from the wing to re­place Ben Smith, who is out of the se­ries with con­cus­sion, leav­ing World Player of the Year Beau­den Bar­rett to run the side at fly­half af­ter he shifted back to re­place Smith last week.

“We had to go through the process of think­ing, ‘Do we make a change at 10 and play Beau­den at full­back or do we make the change at wing and play Izzy at full­back?” Hansen said.

“At the end of the day, we wanted Beau­den to steer the ship at 10.

“Then it be­comes a no-brainer.”

The de­ci­sion in­di­cated the All Blacks will prob­a­bly mix up their at­tack to ex­ploit space in Welling­ton, hav­ing used run­ners off scrumhalf Aaron Smith as the fo­cal point for much of their play last week.

“The beau­ti­ful thing about our game is it’s all about space,” said Hansen.

“If you can find it, then you’re in busi­ness,” he added. – Reuters

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