Warren Gatland has selected Finn Russell on the bench instead of Owen Farrell for the Lions’ third test, as the Scotsman offers “something different”.
Scotland fly-half Russell is set to win his first test cap for the British and Irish Lions this Saturday, after being named in the replacements for the decisive third test against the Springboks.
Russell’s inclusion means that Farrell will not feature in the Lions’ third test, and head coach Gatland explained that he believes the Scotsman may be better placed to challenge the Springboks in the latter stages of the game.
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) August 3, 2021
Warren Gatland on his decision to select Finn Russell on the bench.
“There have definitely been some tough, tight calls on this tour. We definitely want to play some more rugby and we just didn’t get that opportunity in the second half,” Gatland explained.
“First half we got some of the bounces we got in the first Test in terms of aerial stuff, basically we got nothing from the air in the second half and South Africa kicked the ball 22 times in that half.
“We only kicked 10 times, we were trying to go out there and get some momentum and play some rugby and we just never got into the game in that last 20 minutes or so.
“That’s why there are some changes and Finn Russell comes on the bench because he offers us something a little bit different to the other two 10s who are very good at what they do.”
The Lions look to go on the offensive in decisive third test.
Farrell featured in the Lions’ third test against Australia in 2013 and the third test against New Zealand in 2017, but his similarities with starting fly-half Dan Biggar has seen him miss out on selection for Saturday’s game.
Russell has not yet featured in the test series against the Springboks, having only recently recovered from an achilles injury, but at his best the Scotsman is notoriously difficult to handle.
The Lions’ backline has created very few attacking opportunities so far in the series, but if anyone can take advantage of a tiring defence late on in a game, it’s Russell.
The Scotland international’s chances of playing may come down to whether the Lions are protecting or chasing a lead late on, as Biggar would likely be trusted to close out the game if the tourists are in front.