Warren Gatland has made some bold and surprising selections in his Lions Test side, opting for more pace at the breakdown and more playmaking in the backs with the selections of Sam Warburton and the Sexton/Farrell partnership. How will Gatland’s selections affect the All Blacks’ tactics? Here’s what to expect.
1. More of the same driving off the rucks and offloading in tight in the first 30 minutes
The All Blacks seem to use this tactic in high stakes games. It was employed to excellent effect in the 2015 World Cup Final and again against the Lions in the first test. The tactic is used to gain physical and possession dominance and to tire the opposition forwards and starve the backs of momentum and confidence. With the selection of Warburton and O’Brien, they may mix in some rolling mauls as they capitalise on the lack of height of the pair.
2. Much more running from Beauden Barrett
Barrett had a solid game in the first test but his early move to fullback didn’t lead to many sightings of his dangerous running game.
Expect him to be lurking around the rucks look for gaps to inject his lightening acceleration. We may also see more of his short kicking and cross-kicking game as the All Blacks will want to set up one-on-one chances for Rieko Ioane and Waisake Naholo against their respective wings.
This is Barrett’s stomping ground and also home of many of his most spectacular games for the Hurricanes and All Blacks.
3. Beware of the cutback
With the naming of Sexton and Farrell in the 10/12 axis, the All Blacks will want to torch any confidence or control in playmaking early on.
Both Sonny Bill Williams and Anton Lienert Brown have excellent offloading games and expect the powerful and pacy Ioane and Naholo to be running in off their wings to target the pair.
4. The All Blacks will swarm, pilfer and then attack
When the Lions have the ball, their forwards will be in for a torrid time. The All Blacks will try to overpower them firstly in the tackle, then try to blow over the ruck and then launch an attack. Having a Northern Hemisphere referee may help the Lions protect their ball more in this test, but they will need to support each other tightly and very accurately.
5. Beware of the threat of Israel Dagg
While Dagg is highly respected by fans and commentators, he is not talked about as an attacking threat in the same way as others such as Beauden Barrett and Sonny Bill Williams. However, in terms of playmaking Dagg is a crucial component of the All Black backline. Dagg exceptional link play featured in most of the All Black tries at Eden Park and he was operating on the wing. With his move to fullback his influence will only grow.