The Lions team Warren Gatland should select for the second test

Lions team second test

The British and Irish Lions drew first blood in their test series with South Africa on Saturday, but there are a number of areas for the tourists to improve on.

Warren Gatland’s side put in a great second half performance, but the Lions didn’t do much right in a first 40 minutes which left the Springboks in control.

A number of players played some of the best rugby of their careers in the first test – such as Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje – but others seriously struggled to get to grips with the game.

Below is the Lions team we believe should take on the Springboks in the second test.

Front row.

Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Tadhg Furlong.

Welsh prop Wyn Jones is still an injury doubt for the second test after pulling out due to a shoulder injury last weekend, but if fit he deserves to start.

Rory Sutherland lost the scrum battle with Trevor Nyakane on Saturday and didn’t make a big impression in the loose, so if Jones isn’t fit for this weekend, Mako Vunipola should start in the second test.

Although Luke Cowan-Dickie scored the Lions’ only try of the game, he was quiet in the loose and threw very poorly to the lineout in the first half. The lineout improved noticeably with Owens’ introduction while he was also busy in the loose.

Tadhg Furlong did well in the scrum against a powerful Springbok front row, but the Irishman didn’t make as many carries or tackles as he normally does. Still, on his day he is arguably the best prop in the world and should start in his fifth Lions test.

Second row.

Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones.

Same again for the Lions in the second row after impressive showings from both Itoje and Jones in the first test.

Itoje played his best game in a number of years on Saturday, coming up with three crucial turnovers, and earning the man of the match award in doing so.

Lions captain Jones showed no sign of rustiness after dislocating his shoulder just four weeks ago and will be expected to lead from the front again.

Back row.

Courtney Lawes, Hamish Watson and Jack Conan.

Lawes was a surprise selection to start in the first test, but the Englishman rewarded Gatland’s faith in him with a stellar showing in both attack and defence.

Tom Curry tackled well against South Africa, but he gave a couple of silly penalties away in the first half, and found very little success with ball in hand, making just two metres from seven carries.

While Watson gave away a penalty himself which could have seen the Scotsman yellow carded, he looked more energetic than the Englishman and rarely disappoints.

Conan has plenty of competition for the number eight jersey in Taulupe Faletau, but the Leinster man was one of the Lions’ best players in the first test and seemed to make metres with ease.

Half-backs.

Ali Price and Owen Farrell.

Scottish scrum-half Price wasn’t able to show off the fast-paced game he normally employs, but he box kicked well and controlled the tempo nicely in the type of game that doesn’t necessarily suit him.

Dan Biggar played well after a shaky start for the Lions, but the Welshman suffered a concussion against the Springboks in the first test and looks to be a serious doubt for this weekend.

While Farrell failed to impress against South Africa ‘A’ a couple of weeks ago, he put in a controlled performance off the bench on Saturday, and slotted a crucial late kick.

Finn Russell returned to training today and will make a fine addition to the bench if Biggar is unavailable, but asking him to start a game of this calibre would be expecting too much after a few weeks out.

Centres.

Robbie Henshaw and Chris Harris.

Henshaw has been in fantastic form all season, and although he wasn’t quite as good as normal in the first test, the Irishman certainly showed enough quality to earn a second start.

Elliot Daly on the other hand struggled to get to grips with the game and has likely played himself out of contention for a starting spot in the final two tests.

That leaves Bundee Aki and Chris Harris to fight it out for the final starting centre spot, which the Scotland international just about takes, thanks to his excellent defence and better all-round talent.

Back three.

Duhan van der Merwe, Josh Adams and Stuart Hogg.

While the wingers of both teams were given little space to operate, van der Merwe was the best of the four, making a number of strong carries into contact and getting the better of Cheslin Kolbe in the aerial game.

Anthony Watson didn’t do much wrong on Saturday, but he did fail to stop Pieter-Steph du Toit’s run down the right wing which eventually led to South Africa’s only try, while he didn’t do much in attack.

Adams was a surprise omission from the team in the first test, but based on what he did in the warm-up games in the Welshman deserves a start on the wing.

Hogg didn’t have many opportunities in attack, but he looked after the back field well and made some nice kicks, and has done enough to earn a second consecutive start.

Replacements.

Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Tom Curry, Conor Murray, Finn Russell and Liam Williams.

While Cowan-Dickie hasn’t done enough to earn another start, the Englishman is brilliant at his best and could provide a massive boost to the Lions off the bench if he is on form.

Vunipola and Sinckler got the upper hand of the Springboks’ scrum late on and also made their presence know in open play.

Curry, like Cowan-Dickie, wasn’t at his best in the first test, but he has shown his quality at times on tour and will provide plenty of power for the tourists late on.

Should Biggar be ruled out, Russell will be almost guaranteed a spot on the bench if his own injury worries are cleared up, and he could be the one to finally break open the Springboks’ defence in the backline.

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