The British and Irish Lions back three for the first Test has caused much debate recently.
Defending the wings will be key in preventing the All Blacks from making ground. Whoever is chosen will have the luxury of keeping the likes of Waisake Naholo and Julian Savea in check.
As the last man in defence, the fullback will need to be on his game against the world’s best.
Leigh Halfpenny should start the first Test at 15. He is solid in defence and his goal-kicking has been consistent. He slotted over every kick in his appearance vs the Blues. The Lions will need to build-up the scoreboard against New Zealand. He was top points scorer during the Lions tour of 2013. As of yet, he hasn’t rocked the ground in this tour, but he is consistent.
On his performance against the Crusaders, Anthony Watson boosted his chances of filling one of the back three positions also. According to ESPN player stats, the Bath man had the highest metres gained with 87 metres ran while he also beat three defenders.
The Lions need a playmaker in the backfield and a man like Watson fits the bill. As with Halfpenny, having a good boot will be advantageous.
Englishman Elliot Daly can add more strings to the Lions’ bow too. Coming just short in a penalty kick vs the Highlanders, the Wasps man boasts a strong boot. He slotted the below one over in this year’s Six Nations.
If the Lions are to initiate an aerial battle then Daly will be a cog in their quest for aerial supremacy. He is solid under the high ball. A skilful back, Daly is versatile and can slot into midfield or fullback, if required.
Another Lion with a chance to roar is Welshman Liam Williams. If he goes well against The Maori All Blacks he may pip Daly.
Welsh teammate George North may play on the opposite wing. A physical player, North would be a solid choice against the All Black wingers. As of late, North has not been hitting the heights he is capable of. He is carrying a knock, although his physical prowess would warrant his selection.
For the reasons outlined above, Daly/Watson/Halfpenny (11/14/15) should start the first Test. Saying that, Gatland will pick a backline of North/Watson/Halfpenny while Daly or Williams will be on the bench.
However, after Saturday’s game we will have a much better indication of the back three for the first Test.
Fergal Nolan, Pundit Arena