Former Wales international Mark Ring has argued that the British and Irish Lions’ tactics “defied belief” as they attempted to beat South Africa at their own game.
The Lions employed a largely conservative game plan against the Springboks, as they relied heavily on their kicking game and physicality, in a test series which featured little attacking backline play.
Ring was speaking to WalesOnline about the Lions’ series loss to South Africa and was highly critical of both Warren Gatland’s tactics and his selections in the backline.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) August 21, 2021
Mark Ring: ‘I don’t understand the thinking.’
“As soon as I saw the Lions squad, I pictured the way the test series was going to play out. The centres — Bundee Aki for heaven’s sake, (Robbie) Henshaw, ball tucked under one arm, really physical,” Ring said.
“Even Owen Farrell in midfield, not offering much that was different. Dan Biggar and Farrell playing at 10 over the tour. We all know Finn Russell has more of an expansive game, but the question always was whether he had the tools outside him.
“The back three had a lot of strengths in terms of finishing and flair, but there was nobody to get the ball to them and bring them into the game. To think we could outmuscle the world champions at their own game, a really physical game, defied belief.
“To be honest, I thought they would lose the series 3-0, but the Springboks were a bit undercooked in the first test and the Lions took the lead. But I don’t understand the thinking.”
Criticism of the Lions’ series against the Springboks.
The Lions’ test series has come under plenty of criticism in the weeks following its conclusion for it’s focus on tactical kicking and set-piece play.
While that style of play was expected from the Springboks, as they found great success with it during their 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph, the same can not be said for the Lions, who showed plenty of attacking ambition in the warm up games.
Scottish fly-half Finn Russell did improve the Lions’ attacking shape when he was introduced off the bench in the third test, although the tourists’ only try in that game did come from a lineout maul.
The Springboks have taken little notice of the criticism following their series win and two victories against Argentina, although stern challenges await ahead of two games each against Australia and New Zealand in the Rugby Championship.