One last bat­tle to win war

All the hard work put in over the years could mean his­tory for Bri­tish Li­ons

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - REUTERS WYNONA LOUW

All of the frozen toes, mud in the eyes and skinned knees suf­fered as a child that de­vel­oped into thou­sands of col­li­sions and months of re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion from ca­reer-threat­en­ing in­juries comes down to one game for Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton.

A se­ries-de­cid­ing Test match be­tween the Li­ons and the All Blacks at Eden Park to­mor­row that kicks off at 9.35 (South African time).

“We do ap­pre­ci­ate it is the big­gest game we have played in,” War­bur­ton said yes­ter­day after prac­tice.

“But that’s what ev­ery sac­ri­fice you have made since you were a young kid and de­cided to be a rugby player is all about, mo­ments like this’” he added.

“All the guys are re­ally ex­cited about it and get­ting pre­pared for the big game.”

The mag­ni­tude of the ‘big game’ has not been lost on the visi­tors’ un­changed side, who were in­volved in what coach War­ren Gat­land de­scribed as a “tetchy” train­ing ses­sion yes­ter­day with “words ex­changed” be­tween play­ers.

The All Blacks, after all, have lost just one se­ries – in 1971 – to the Bri­tish com­bined team since they first started tour­ing New Zealand in 1888.

They last lost suc­ces­sive Tests against any­one at home in 1998 and have not been beaten at Eden Park in 23 years.

Cou­pled with that, the All Blacks get an­gry after a de­feat. Very an­gry. “I am def­i­nitely ex­pect­ing a re­ac­tion, sim­i­lar to the one we had in the se­cond Test after the first test de­feat,” War­bur­ton said.

“We have got all week to try and get ready for that.

“I think it will be a real STORM­ERS coach Rob­bie Fleck doesn’t see the in­clu­sion of the 19-year-old Juarno Au­gus­tus at No 7 for their game against the Sun­wolves to­mor­row as a big call, but rather an “ex­cit­ing se­lec­tion.”

Au­gus­tus was named Player of the Tour­na­ment at the World Rugby Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onships in Ge­or­gia and now, a few weeks later, he will com­plete the Storm­ers’ loose trio along with skip­per Siya Kolisi at open­side flank and Nizaam Carr at No 8.

“I don’t think it is a big call to play Juarno at all. I would proper, epic Test match.”

The All Blacks con­vinc­ingly beat up the Li­ons in the col­li­sion ar­eas to win the first game 30-15 at Eden Park two weeks ago.

War­bur­ton’s side lev­elled the se­ries with a 24-21 win last week after they wore down the All Blacks, who had been re­duced to 14 men in the 25th minute when Sonny Bill Wil­liams was sent off for a dan­ger­ous shoul­der charge.

The four-week sus­pen­sion Wil­liams re­ceived cre­ated a ma­jor back­line shake-up for the world cham­pi­ons with coach Steve Hansen nam­ing Ngani Laumape to start his first Test after he came off the bench for his de­but last week.

His Welling­ton Hur­ri­canes team­mate Jordie Bar­rett has also been given a first Test start after he made his de­but against Samoa last month off the bench, while Ju­lian Savea has re­turned on the left wing, re­plac­ing the ill Rieko Ioane.

While the changes were out of ne­ces­sity and some­thing Bri­tish me­dia have said could be a weak­ness for the Li­ons to ex­ploit, Hansen has not been afraid in the past of trust­ing his gut and giv­ing young­sters the mes­sage they should sim­ply im­pose them­selves on the game to­mor­row.

“Both of them have pulled the jersey on be­fore so they know what is hap­pen­ing,” Hansen said of Bar­rett and Laumape.

“It’s the same as ev­ery week, go out there and trust your in­stincts and play.

“If you do that ... then you walk down the tun­nel with a lot of con­fi­dence in your­self and trust in your team­mates ... and that’s what sport is about.

“It’s about trust­ing your own abil­i­ties un­der pres­sure and we’ve been pretty good at that over the years.” TEAMS Li­ons START­ING XV: 15 Liam Wil­liams, 14 An­thony Wat­son, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Far­rell, 11 El­liot Daly, 10 Jonathan Sex­ton, 9 Conor Mur­ray, 8 Taulupe Fale­tau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Sam War­bur­ton(cap­tain), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Fur­long, 2 Jamie Ge­orge, 1 Mako Vu­nipola; RE­PLACE­MENTS: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinck­ler, 19 Court­ney Lawes, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Now­ell Coach: War­ren Gat­land The Bri­tish and Ir­ish Li­ons at train­ing in Queen­stown ahead of their third Test against the All Blacks to­mor­row. NEW ZEALAND START­ING XV: 15 Jordie Bar­rett, 14 Is­rael Dagg, 13 An­ton Lienert Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ju­lian Savea, 10 Beauden Bar­rett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (cap­tain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam White­lock, 4 Brodie Re­tal­lick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Tay­lor, 1 Joe Moody; Re­place­ments: 16 Nathan Har­ris, 17 Wy­att Crock­ett, 18 Char­lie Fau­muina, 19 Scott Bar­rett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Per­e­nara, 22 Aaron Cru­den, 23 Malakai Fek­i­toa. Coach: Steve Hansen

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