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RavenBish

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crikey, this England side don't half want to chuck it around a bit. Back row of Wilson, Curry and Hughes has been great so far. Not convinced even Jones himself thinks this 10/12/13 combo of Ford, Lozowski & Slade will work but it's fun to watch. Looking forward to seeing Maunder, Solomona and Francis in the 2nd half too.
 

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Some game going on - real end to end stuff.

Mistakes of course but giving it a go as Bish says.
 

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Denny fucking Solomona. What a player (needs to improve his defence but he's still new enough whereby it's weird people are slating him about it already). Fantastic game.
 

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I hereby start the Anthony Watson to start at 15 in the first Test bandwagon
 

RavenBish

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strongest Lions team of the tour play the Maoris on Saturday then, a strong indication of whether the All Blacks will wallop us by a lot of points or even more than a lot of points. About time to nail down the starting XV, for me;

Mako, Owens, Furlong, Kruis, AW Jones, Itoje, Warburton, Faletau, Murray, Farrell, Williams, Te'o, Davies, North, Watson.

expect Itoje and Williams to miss out for O'Mahony and Halfpenny (*shakes head*) though. Would love to see Farrell/Sexton but fear you can't get away with that against a side as good as NZ - we'll go with a big sturdy defensive side with solid set-pieces and then bring big ball-carriers and impact players like Stander, Lawes, Itoje, Sinckler & Webb off the bench.
 

hodge

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Fuck off Gatland, 4 more Welsh players called up and none of them are the next best in their positions
 

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Maybe we should look at the Scots given their result in Austrlia this morning..
 

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A couple of the Scots are on their way over too. I get the logic - they're just bodies so no big guns have to even sit in the bench midweek but it does demean the value of a Lions jersey as there are clearly better English and Irish players
 

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Sam Underhill is awesome
 

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Team for the 1st test:

Some surprises including Williams and Daly coming in at the expense of George North and a new captain:

Liam Williams (Wales); Anthony Watson (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Ben Te'o (England), Elliot Daly (England); Owen Farrell (England), Conor Murray (Ireland); Maka Vunipola (England), Jamie George (England), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland); Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), George Kruis (England); Peter O'Mahony (capt, Ireland), Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: Ken Owens (Wales), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Maro Itoje (England), Sam Warburton (Wales), Rhys Webb (Wales), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Leigh Halfpenny (Wales).
 

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Mistake not starting Itoje.
 

RavenBish

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Yeah he's better than AWJ on form but I think AWJ is a solid match up against the likes of Whitelock and Retallick who are smart pros. Itoje off the bench for the last 20.

Like the Lions side - just a case of whether Williams counter attacking trumps Halfpenny's goalkicking.

Surprised at the All Blacks side - would have feared it much more with Savea on the wing - no idea how ALB isn't starting either. Pack is still great though even sans Coles and you've got to somehow contain Smith and Barrett. Narrow NZ win for me.
 

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Backs good, forwards terrible
 

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A few changes including Warburton in as captain - not sure it will make any difference though.

British and Irish Lions: L Williams, A Watson, J Davies, O Farrell, E Daly, J Sexton, C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong, M Itoje, AW Jones, S Warburton (c), S O'Brien, T Faletau.

Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, K Sinckler, C Lawes, CJ Stander, R Webb, B Te'o, J Nowell.
 

RavenBish

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A bit more mobile in defence to stop NZ making easy metres around the fringes so I get it - Farrell/Sexton is just an admission that we can't beat NZ unless we take a few risks.

All Blacks bring in Naholo and ALB because you know - they weren't a daunting enough side as it was.
 

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I feel sorry for Te'o making way for Farrell to move to Centre so that Sexton can be accommodated at Fly Half.

I agree that it doesn't really matter what Gatland does, even if the Lions do put in an improved performance on Saturday, we'll probably find the AB's will also have learned from last week and will be a better team. The Lions will probably put in a better performance this week, but not by enough.

But hey.... come on... this is a tour to New Zealand. Who comes away from that unscathed..? It was always an enormous ask, and deep down we all knew it would probably be too much. These All Blacks are a great team even by All Black's standards. Any team that can retire Richie McCaw and Dan Carter at the same time and replace them seamlessly must be doing something right.

I'm glad that Hansen is trying to tone down the media hype that's gotten a little out of hand. In my opinion there is no room for the sort of stupid, offensive imagery put out by the NZ Herald. It's the sort of thing that we'd expect here from The Sun and it doesn't sit well with the culture of humility and respect that Kiwi rugby is rightly proud of.

I hope the newspaper silliness stops now.
 

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Great win albeit against 14 men but excellent comeback.

Will need to cut out the silly penalties though.
 

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Lions indiscipline could, and probably should have cost them, Vianopola can count himself lucky he didn't get a red for two stupid late shots as well. The second didn't look much different to SBWs one, hope he's benched next week. Warburton led the side superbly but would still like to see Gatland use his bench much earlier. Game, and series, on next week!
 

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Kyle Sincklers starting to look like a monster of a player. Solid in the scrum, good ball carrier, great hands, quick off the line and kick chases like a nimble back rower.

Mixed emotions really - defended well but still far too many easy metres conceded - Sexton isn't in good enough form with ball in hand to accommodate the Farrell/Sexton combo (Not that either are bad defensively but they're giving up 3 stone to all the NZ centres) - especially when Te'o is in such good form. I thought Warburton and AW Jones were both poor - Vunipola nearly cost us the match but he's still a better player than McGrath, just potentially swap them around and have Mako off the bench instead.
 

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Somehow, the Lions contrived to win a match they tried desperately to lose.

Sonny Bill's sending off was spot on. It was a cheap hit, deliberately carried out with intent to utterly smash Watson. No other interpretation can be put on that. Vunipola was very lucky to see only yellow and for him the tour is over.... or at least, it should be.

13 penalties conceded was far too many, and if Barratt had shown the same kicking form that he had last week, the AB's would have been over the hill and far away before the Lions belatedly got their act together and started using the ball rather than just kicking it away. Nice try by Conor Murray. For a moment I thought it was Danny Care..!!

The win is very welcome indeed, but it has to be said that they just scraped in by three points in a game they should have won far more convincingly given the dismissal of Williams and missed shots by Barratt.

The AB's are wounded. They don't like losing in front of their own people. Wounded All Blacks are dangerous animals to face a week later... in a series decider.... at Eden Park......

Good luck, Lions. You're going to need it.
 

RavenBish

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If O'Brien gets a ban for that then something is clearly wrong. Purely unintentional and not reckless at all. He's also been very good this series so would be a blow to lose him when the other flankers have been so poor
 

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New Zealand just been clinical again this half.

Lions missed a chance or two.
 

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That is true!

Good effort by the Lions.

Only losing once in New Zealand is no mean feat.
 
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RavenBish

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Great effort that - some superb individual performances in the series - Itoje, Murray, Davies and Williams in particular. Real shame we couldn't forge a try from somewhere given some good spells of consistently making easy metres but overall Lions should be more content with the draw.

Questions should be asked about why Jordie Barrett (who is going to be so ridiculously good btw) wasn't kicking instead of Beauden (who was still sensational over the course of the last 3 weeks).
 

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It's a series draw that somehow feels like a defeat. Ridiculous I know, but couldn't you just see the disappointment etched on the faces of players from both teams when they realised that after all that toil, sweat, blood and tears, nobody emerged as a winner.

Not losing a series in NZ is an exceptional achievement and as time goes by it should be seen as such. But hell..... to go so close to winning the series and to have to settle for thinking that the thing all their efforts will be remembered for is a draw - neither one thing or another - must leave such a feeling of "What if?"

Having said all that though, it was a thoroughly enjoyable series and those who say the Lions are an anachronism.... a bygone ethic from the amateur era..... are just going to have to suck it up as this wonderful tradition has become strengthened still further by this series of intense, hard-fought and skilfull, often exceptional, rugby played out by two teams that didn't give an inch. Eyeball to eyeball confrontation and never a backward step by any player on either side. Brilliant.

South Africa next in four years time. Bring it on. I can't wait.
 

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NZ v Australia was a belter this morning - can't believe a) how bad Australia's defence was and b) how NZ can chuck the ball around like that and make no handling errors - Ioane made Folau look like a second rower for the first try.

Brilliant to see the Springboks starting to look like a top side again. Lions' success in Super Rugby and now a good young-ish national side - be interesting to see how they get on over the next month with games in Aus & NZ to come after the Arg rematch.

Argentina need some better coaching, the same errors and poor discipline over and over again despite the talent.
 

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You won't see many better games than this morning's. All Blacks last 2 tries were unbelievable, it's ridiculous how good they are.
 

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You won't see many better games than this morning's. All Blacks last 2 tries were unbelievable, it's ridiculous how good they are.


I quiet agree Raven. To give Australia a three try head start would destroy most teams but NZ just seemed to take it in their stride. At no point did I ever think they'd lose that match.

Give the Aussies their due. They came at NZ and completely defied the knockers who have been saying that they're a poor team. They can play and throughout the match they hit NZ hard. The All Blacks know they've been in a contest. Well played Australia..!!

But the pace, accuracy and sheer instinctive understanding of where, when and how to strike at your opponent is what sets New Zealand apart. They are quite superb. Even so, they have their critics. Fair enough. But I would argue that, even if they have flaws, nobody is really good enough to exploit them fully and there is such self belief in All Blacks rugby that it feels as if their sheer presence is enough to win any game.

Two criticisms of Australia. Firstly, they can't scrummage. Some say they never could. Half the time their pack looks like it's on roller skates, being driven backwards and eventually collapsing into a big snotty heap and the referee giving penalties against them. Stephen Moore shouldn't be playing international rugby. He's just not up to it.

Perhaps it's the Australian love of RL that makes them think scrummaging doesn't matter. A sort of "Nah, let's not worry about the set piece, we'll just run their legs off in open play." Fantastic to watch, but a flawed tactic against opponents who have big, powerful, mobile forwards who win good ball and pass it on to big, powerful and even more mobile backs. You can't win the game if you haven't got the ball, lads, and if NZ get a lot of ball, they'll kill ya.

My second gripe is with the constant whingeing. Michael Cheika is a whiner who sets a bad example to the team by constantly complaining about every call that goes against them. Nigel Owens is the best referee in the world and time after time the TV playbacks showed his judgement to be sound, accurate and fair. And yet Cheika was throwing his hands up, stomping petulantly up and down and behaving as if the whole world is against him and his team. Not clever Michael and that attitude transmits itself to the team who lose their focus because they're more intent on manking at the referee than worrying about the black tsunami flooding over them.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=11912037

For sure, everybody tries to get into the referees' ear nowadays That's modern sporting life, but there is a point at which you can go too far. All you achieve is to make yourself sound like a bad loser. Sometimes, you just sound like a loser.

Last week, Wayne Barnes called Michael Hooper out over Hoopers insistence that he (Barnes) yellow card an opponent and when told by the referee that doing such a thing was shoddy behaviour not befitting a Captain of Australia, Hooper denied saying anything. The Ref mic picked the exchange up, which ended with Barnes telling Hooper "Denying that you said that is quite dishonest of you." Reprimanded like a naughty schoolboy, Hooper skulked off. A petulant child caught in the act and not being big enough to admit to his fault.

Man up, Aussie. Play the game. This is Rugby Union and higher standards are expected.

Championship rugby is wonderful to watch though, and both teams contributed to 80 minutes of high sporting drama.

Damn, I love this game.
 

RavenBish

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George Ford. Different team, same form. He can't do it in the Premiership.

Fancy Bath to go well this year, surprised they're below Leicester and Exeter (and maybe even Wasps) in the betting odds.
 

RavenBish

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Don't want to go overboard here but I think Marcus Smith is going to be the best fly-half ever.
 

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