All Blacks coach clar­i­fies equa­tion with his Lions coun­ter­part.

Lions coach con­fi­dent duo, tasked with out­flank­ing All Blacks on counter-at­tack, can ‘do a job’ on Wil­liams in sec­ond Test

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Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions head coach Warren Gat­land in­sisted Owen Far­rell and Johnny Sex­ton can “do a job” on New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Wil­liams in to­mor­row’s sec­ond Test.

Gat­land has paired Sex­ton and Far­rell as twin play­mak­ers in a bid to out­flank New Zealand on the counter-at­tack in Welling­ton. Sam War­bur­ton will lead the Lions, with last week­end’s cap­tain Peter O’Ma­hony omit­ted en­tirely from the match squad, while Alun Wyn Jones has been re­tained at lock to part­ner Maro Itoje.

Eng­land cen­tre Ben Te’o was able to force Wil­liams into hav­ing a quiet night in the Lions’ 30-15 first Test de­feat in Auck­land last week­end, but Gat­land re­mained adamant Sex­ton and Far­rell can han­dle him this time around. “Johnny and Owen haven’t started but have had quite a bit of time to­gether,” Gat­land said of fly-half Sex­ton and in­side cen­tre Far­rell.

“It’s just given us two ball play­ers and two kick­ing op­tions at first and sec­ond re­ceiver, so we’re happy with the mix. “One con­cern we might have is that look­ing at the long-range weather fore­cast it doesn’t look too great for Satur­day night. “So we may have to change how we play tac­ti­cally. And of course de­fen­sively we’ll have to do a job on Sonny Bill Wil­liams, too.

“He came pretty di­rect at us and got away a cou­ple of off­loads, so it’s go­ing to be im­por­tant we shut him down.”

Asked if Sex­ton and Far­rell’s slighter frames against the hulk­ing Wil­liams could cause prob­lems, Gat­land replied: “No, not at all.

“It is tough for Ben Te’o. He’s done re­ally well, car­ried well for us, de­fended well, so it’s been a tough call for him but he will get some time off the bench.

“So we’ve made a call on the amount of pos­ses­sion and op­por­tu­ni­ties we’ve cre­ated. We think we did stress the All Blacks at times last week.

“They got pretty nar­row, be­cause they played that way in an at­tack­ing per­spec­tive, so it does open up some op­por­tu­ni­ties for us if we get the ball back to at­tack them as well. And that’s why we’ve gone with the com­bi­na­tions we have. “We al­lowed Sonny Bill too much time on the ball last week.

“I can’t re­mem­ber Sonny Bill pass­ing the ball in the game, but he got some good gain­line for them, got a cou­ple of good off­loads away and got them some front-foot ball.

“So we just need to make sure that our line speed, that’s im­por­tant for us, to stop him be­ing as ef­fec­tive as he was. And we’ve been working pretty hard on that.”

Gat­land con­ceded the Lions coaches talked long and hard about po­ten­tially load­ing their re­place­ments bench with six for­wards and just two backs.

Ire­land lock Iain Hen­der­son would most likely have made the bench had the man­age­ment opted for the pack-heavy bench.

The Lions coach re­vealed it was the past in­jury pro­files of the likes of Sex­ton, how­ever, that swayed their think­ing to name three back­line re­place­ments, in Te’o, Rhys Webb and Eng­land’s Jack Now­ell.

Gat­land has kept faith with Jones at lock af­ter the Wales star strug­gled in the first Test, but re­mains con­vinced the ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paigner will come good this week­end.

“It is a big game for Alun Wyn. He knows,” Gat­land said.

“He was a bit dis­ap­pointed last week in how it went, and he’s pretty fo­cused and pretty mo­ti­vated. It’s po­ten­tially a one-onone chal­lenge with him and his op­po­si­tion. Nor­mally in the past when he’s had those chal­lenges, he’s re­ally fronted the next game.

“He’s trained well this week and I think he’s look­ing for­ward to Satur­day night.

“We had a long de­bate about a six-two split on the bench. And in the end it was just too much of a risk, if we lost a cou­ple of backs.

“We’ve got a cou­ple of play­ers who haven’t al­ways had the great­est in­jury record in big matches.

“We saw the All Blacks last week los­ing two backs, and po­ten­tially the pres­sure that puts you un­der hav­ing to bring a nine on and move some peo­ple around. But we did have a long dis­cus­sion about that.”

David Rogers / Getty Images

Owen Far­rell, cen­tre, and Johnny Sex­ton, right, will be able to han­dle New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Wil­liams, says Lions head coach Warren Gat­land.

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