Home Rugby The Lions Couldn’t Keep This Lethal All Black Test Side Tryless… Could They?

The Lions Couldn’t Keep This Lethal All Black Test Side Tryless… Could They?

After the Crusaders got suffocated by the Lions whose strategic play was a mix of roar and snore, could the same thing happen to the All Blacks? We select a test side of 23 players who will be tasked with cracking the Lions defensive code in the Tes series.

Here is our All Blacks Test squad – and the threat each player poses to Warren Gatland’s side.

15 Ben Smith

Ben Smith is the glue to the All Black backline. Positions himself to provide intelligent support and is almost always accurate.

14 Waisake Naholo

If the Lions continue their rush defense, expect Waisake Naholo to be selected and the All Blacks to send quick cut out passes to give him one on one time with his opponent. Naholo is a brute of a player who almost always busts the line, and also has a useful short kicking game.

13 Ryan Crotty

His playmaking ability was sorely missed by the Crusaders backline who were battered by the Lion’s rush defense. Runs intelligent lines and rock solid defense.

12 Sonny Bill Williams

His combination with Beauden Barrett looms as the most crucial to the All Blacks. The express pace of Barrett running off SBW’s shoulder waiting for the inevitable offload could break open the test.

SINGAPORE - APRIL 17: Sonny Bill Williams of New Zealand warms up before the 2016 Singapore Sevens Cup Quarter Final between South Africa and New Zealand at National Stadium on April 17, 2016 in Singapore. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

11 Rieko Ioane

Hansen’s loyalty to his test regulars will probably see Julian ‘The Bus’ Savea selected on the left wing. But this writer would argue that Ioane’s form is too irresistible to ignore any longer and particularly after his outstanding, phobia-creating (in Jack Nowell’s case) performance against the Lions for the Blues.

10 Beauden Barrett

Barrett has had a few quiet weeks in Super Rugby but has a habit of catching fire on the big occasion. As long as he expresses himself, the All Blacks will feed off his confidence.

9 Aaron Smith

The All Blacks will want the fastest delivery in their first phase play and therefore Aaron Smith should get the nod ahead of TJ Perenara.

8 Kieran Read

Read will come into the first test cold or perhaps as Steve Hansen would reclassify it ‘fresh’ and the hunger of the pack to turn over quick ball and launch attacks will be key to the first test. If the Lions are allowed to play their ‘up the jumper’ or ‘up and under tactics,’ the All Blacks could be just as prone to error and frustration as the Crusaders.

7 Sam Cane

Cane has a big job to do against the bruising Lions loosies, but he, Read and Kaino have enough experience and smarts to do the job.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 27: Sam Cane of the All Blacks takes a pass during the Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the Australia Wallabies at Westpac Stadium on August 27, 2016 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

6 Jerome Kaino

Another coming back from injury, a layoff may have been a blessing for the hardworking Kaino. Loves a physical contest and will be key to challenging the Lions’ mauling dominance so far in the tour.

5 Sam Whitelock

Whitelock will want revenge after the Lions snapped his beloved Crusaders 14-match winning streak. Expect a huge performance.

4 Brodie Retallick

Big Brodie is likely to be matched against Maro Itoje in what will be an Avengers-like match-up.

3 Owen Franks

Franks, Taylor and Moody will want to address the scrum deficiencies in the Crusaders game which led to a series of important penalties. Steve Hansen’s steely supervision should iron out the kinks.

2 Codie Taylor

Taylor has big shoes to fill with the injured Dane Coles watching on from the sideline. A real pressure test for the Crusaders hooker.

1 Joe Moody

Moody will want to hear less of the referee’s whistle in his direction than he did in the Crusaders game.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Joe Moody of New Zealand packs down a scrum during the Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South Africa Springboks at AMI Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Bench:

The All Black bench has almost always proved a point of difference and this bench is loaded with pacy, skilled players who thrive on more open play. Halfback TJ Perenara and flanker Ardie Savea stand out as the most potent and influential of these pine warmers.

Ardie Savea, Israel Dagg, either Lima Sopoaga or Aaron Cruden, TJ Perenara, Charlie Faumuina, Wyatt Crockett, Scott Barrett, Nathan Harris are all capable of causing the Lions trouble.

Kaal Kaczmarek, Punit Arena

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