The Lions team Warren Gatland should select for the third test

Lions third test

The British and Irish Lions were well beaten by the Springboks in the second test, and several changes are now needed if they are to win the series.

Warren Gatland’s side were on top in a stop-start first half, but South Africa were far superior in the second half as they ground out a 27-9 win against the Lions.

Some of the tourists played very well – such as Robbie Henshaw and captain Alun Wyn Jones – but the majority of Lions played well below their best in a frustrating encounter.

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

Front row.

Wyn Jones, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tadhg Furlong.

Welsh prop Wyn Jones was selected to start in the first test against the Springboks, but a minor shoulder injury unfortunately ruled the Scarlets man out of the first two games. Should he now be fit, Jones should start in the decider.

Mako Vunipola played well in the loose on Saturday, but the Englishman was unable to hold back the South African scrum, although the starting front row did perform better than the Lions replacements.

Cowan-Dickie was one of few Lions players who gave a good account of themselves at the weekend, and remains the only tourist to have scored a try in the test series so far.

Furlong narrowly lost the scrum battle to Steven Kitshoff, but he was energetic in open play and has outperformed both Zander Fagerson and Kyle Sinckler – who may be banned for the final test – throughout the tour.

Second row.

Maro Itoje and Alun Wyn Jones.

England lock Itoje was unable to back up his excellent performance in the first test at the weekend, and is perhaps lucky not to be cited for kneeling on Damien De Allende at a ruck.

However, it would be very harsh to drop Itoje off the back of one mediocre performance after seeing what he is capable of against the Springboks in the first test.

Jones was the Lions’ best forward in the 18-point loss, putting 15 tackles and eight carries, and the tourists will need his experience for the high-pressure decider that awaits them.

Back row.

Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson and Jack Conan.

The back row failed to fire in the second test after a commanding performance in the first encounter, and a change in tactics is now needed.

Courtney Lawes was very good in the first test and put in a decent shift in the second, but if the Lions are to stop the Springboks’ momentum going forward they need more poachers, which is exactly what Beirne provides.

Tom Curry certainly has the size and strength to challenge South Africa, but he has been underwhelming in both test matches, and Watson’s energy will be needed to up the tempo and force the Springboks into a different kind of game.

Conan couldn’t back up his exceptional performance in the first test on Saturday, but the Lions will need go-forward ball to challenge the South Africans in defence, something which the Irishman almost always provides.

Half-backs.

Ali Price and Dan Biggar.

The Lions have relied largely on box kicks to make metres so far in the test series, but that strategy played into the South African’s hands at the weekend, and a faster more dynamic game plan is now needed.

Scotland scrum-half Price was clearly instructed to play conservatively in the first test, but it is time for him to revert to his usual self in the series decider and significantly raise the tempo to a level that the Springboks will struggle to match.

Biggar, as with the rest of the half backs, has been clearly instructed to consistently kick the leather off the ball, and can’t really be blamed for the unimaginative attacking play that has been employed so far.

There is much more to the Welshman’s game than garryowens, and if Gatland takes the shackles off Biggar can finally show what made him so dangerous for Wales in this year’s Six Nations.

Centres.

Owen Farrell and Robbie Henshaw.

The Lions have looked devoid of ideas in attack in the test series so far, and a play-making inside centre may be exactly what is needed to keep the South Africans guessing.

Farrell has played at 12 to great effect for both England and the Lions before, and although he may not be the most physical centre, Henshaw’s defensive excellence should take some pressure off of the England captain.

Henshaw was the Lions’ best backline player in the second test by some distance and has shown so far to be the only back to trouble the Springboks’ defensively.

Back three.

Josh Adams, Liam Williams and Stuart Hogg.

The Lions’ back three were badly shown up in the second test, as they lost the aerial battle which ultimately proved to be decisive.

Adams must be scratching his head after missing out on a place in the match-day squad in the first two tests after his try-scoring exploits in the warm-ups, but now is the time to introduce the Cardiff winger.

The decision not to put Williams on the bench in the second test proved costly, as the Welshman is excellent in the air, and will be better placed to withstand the aerial bombardment than either Anthony Watson or Duhan van der Merwe.

Although Hogg was also disappointing in the second test, playing two fullbacks is the most effective way to combat the Springboks’ kicking game, which the Scotsman and Williams will hopefully be able to negate together.

Replacements.

Ken Owens, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Courtney Lawes, Taulupe Faletau, Conor Murray, Elliot Daly.

The Springboks overpowered the Lions in the second half at the weekend, and their 6/2 forwards/backs split was largely responsible for that, just as it was in the 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph.

While the Lions should look to play a different style of game that takes the Springboks out of their comfort zone, the sizeable trio of Henderson, Lawes and Faletau should be able to meet the opposition forwards head on.

The risk of only selecting two backs on the bench has been negated by the versatility of those selected, as Farrell, Williams and Daly are all capable of playing in at least two positions each.

Murray did nothing wrong in the second test, and should it be close in the dying minutes this weekend, the Lions will need someone of his experience to potentially close out the game.

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