Ronan O’Gara has argued that the British and Irish Lions’ backline replacements are better than the starting backs for the first test against the Springboks.
Plenty of big names have missed out on the Lions starting team for Saturday’s test against the Springboks, as Conor Murray, Owen Farrell and Liam Williams have all been selected as replacements.
Former Ireland and Lions fly-half O’Gara was speaking on Off The Ball and argued that the Lions replacements, especially Farrell, will be key to a test series victory for the tourists.
‘I think Owen Farrell is key to the whole test series.’
“I would have played Conor but I understand it. A lot of people probably struggle with the fact that maybe you want to finish with your best 15,” O’Gara commented.
“That’s very evident nowadays in sport with many teams. You’re hoping probably that away from home the first 30 minutes are an arm wrestle and your half-backs will probably be changed after 50.
“Not necessarily obviously, but when you have someone of the calibre of Murray and Farrell [on the bench] – and I think Farrell is the key to the whole test series, from my point of view.
“I think it makes it very interesting. Any time there is an injury or something isn’t going well, I think the Lions are stronger [on the bench] from a backs point of view.”
The importance of the Lions bench.
The bench has become increasingly important in rugby in recent years, as coaches will rarely decide against introducing all eight replacements in any given match.
South Africa used their bench to great effect in their Rugby World Cup triumph in 2019, as they used six replacement forwards in all three knockout games in that tournament as a way of imposing their physicality in the second half.
The Springboks have opted for five forwards on the bench rather than six for Saturday’s test against the Lions, but they will still add plenty of firepower to the hosts late on.
Gatland’s side has plenty of experience among the backs on their bench, although three of their forward replacements are touring with the Lions for the first time.