In the early hours of Thursday morning, Warren Gatland released his squad for the crucial second Test on Saturday.
Gatland has selected his team with a blend of power and flair, which could cause problems for the All Blacks. However, on reflection, many Lions fans will be shocked by some of his decisions.
Here we look at the three most unexpected of those calls.
3. The Inclusion Of Alun Wyn Jones Over George Kruis And Iain Henderson
Jones looked lacklustre in all areas of the game last weekend. If you look through various match reports and ratings, you will see Jones with the most negative feedback. It’s a fact that the Lions possessed more physicality and energy as soon as Maro Itoje came onto the pitch.
Jones looked slow and tired, maybe because of his lack of game time this season, but he’s still starting his eighth Lions match in a row. The All Blacks’ greatest strength was their breakdown work and securing quick ball. To counter this, the Lions need breakdown specialists who will be a nuisance. Jones isn’t this man.
Meanwhile, Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson are beasts at the breakdown. George Kruis has been the standout lock on tour and to see him dropped over Jones is very surprising. Henderson had the game of his life against the Hurricanes and most fans thought he warranted a place in the 23 over Jones.
2. The Sexton-Farrell Axis
Gatland has played it safe within his pack but yet has taken a huge risk in the backs.
There’s no doubting the brilliance of Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell. The problem is the lack of game time that they have had with each other. They haven’t had time to adjust to playing as a pair. Nobody will doubt that the Lions will now have more creativity in attack and will carve out more openings for the back three. The problem lies in carrying and defending.
When the Lions have needed a man to break the gain line, Ben Te’o has been that man and arguably the man of the tour. Also, Sonny Bill Williams was very quiet until Te’o went off, that’s when the former boxer came alive. Defensively, the Lions may have a weakness that the All Blacks are licking their lips at exposing.
1. The New Captain
To say Peter O’Mahony has had a good tour is an understatement. The Munster mongrel has impressed at the lineout and in motivating his troops to victory in two of the three games.
However, he has been dropped for another leader of men, Sam Warburton. No complaints would be made about Warburton’s inclusion if he had shown good form and proven his fitness, but he’s yet to do either.
Picking a captain who is nowhere near his best is a bold move by Gatland. There’s no doubt that the Lions have been calling out for Warburton’s turnovers at the breakdown but is he fit enough to operate at his best?
Patrick Perry, Pundit Arena