The Big One

Tomorrow’s test really is the biggest game on the tour.

The Lions are one down – lose and the series is lost. But win and they take it into the final game.

According to just about every pundit Warren Gatland has taken a huge gamble with his selection of the starting XV and the bench.

The changes signal a change in how the lions will play and it is hard to argue that the result will not define the coach and his future prospects of getting the job he desperately wants.

Most predictions have the All Blacks winning by at least 12 – and some by as many as 20+.

The All Blacks have exceptional handling skills and the spine of the team have been together for some years – the odds are in their favour against a group of talented players who have been thrown together for just a few weeks.

However the ref tomorrow is French, the weather is predicted to be filthy and this is the Lions.

Sam Warburton echoed the view that playing in that red shirt alongside the other home nations is the pinnacle of his and every other player’s career.

I believe the Lions will give it everything – the saying ‘die on our feet rather than live on our knees’ seems singularly appropriate.

My head says the All Blacks – but the Lions are where my heart lies.

I pray for biblical weather and some sacré bleu from the men in red.

The Lions by 7

Not just me then?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been saying that I think the Lions will not tour again after 2025 and possibly not after 2021. I suggested that the Lions would therefore never tour New Zealand again.

A number of people on twitter have said that I have never said anything more stupid – this was quite extreme frankly, as it was up against some pretty stiff competition.

Interestingly, Stephen Jones, rugby correspondent for the Sunday Times etc., said pretty much the same thing –

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/all-blacks/news/article.cfm?c_id=116&objectid=11884005&ref=rss

As you would expect I find his reasoning to be pretty sound

“They are smashed to bits by rugby itself because they won’t give the Lions any type of preparation. The Lions played a game within 72 hours of arriving here at the end of a savage season at home. That’s nonsense,” Jones said.

“It’s the player welfare aspect that is nonsense. Neither the New Zealand hosts nor the organisers in the UK of all the other competitions will give the Lions any proper preparation time and in this day and age it’s just not good enough. So I think this will be the last Lions tour.”

The pressure from the Premiership and Pro12 clubs is also a factor.

The Southern Hemisphere will be desperate to keep the tours and Steve Tew and Kieran Read rejected Jones claim.

I hope the Lions do continue – they are brilliant events in the rugby calendar – no other side on the planet gets travelling support of over 20,000.

But unless the administrators give the Lions a decent chance to prepare and negotiate a far more equable split of the revenue then I fear the Lions are in fact doomed to extinction.

 

Beyond Belief

 

No words are needed to accompany these two videos –

 

 

Tory Council Leader Nicholas Paget-Brown at the Chelsea and Kensington Council owners and managers of the Grenfell Tower has attempted to shift blame away from council and onto dead residents who cannot defend themselves.

This is him –

 

Has he no shame? That is rhetorical, obviously!

New Claws

Right after the first test I posted my 23 for the game in Wellington this Saturday.

This was before the Hurricanes match, so I had no idea what changes, if any, Warren Gatland and his coaching team might have in mind.

Turns out I picked 13 of the starting XV, including all the backs and the Owen Farrell/ Johnny Sexton combination. This was a 10-12 pairing I have favoured all along – as you have probably been bored by me saying for the last 4 weeks!

_96729722_lions

L Williams; A Watson, J Davies, O Farrell, E Daly; J Sexton, C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong, AW Jones, M Itoje, S Warburton (capt), S O’Brien, T Faletau. Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, K Sinckler, C Lawes, CJ Stander; R Webb, B Te’o, J Nowell

I also stated that this was harsh on Ben T’eo.

I was wrong on the forwards – AWJ survived my proposed cull, whilst I had also opted to retain Peter O’Mahoney.

On the bench I was right with 6 of the 8 – I had Justin Tipuric and Iain Henderson – and, I might note, before their performances on Tuesday. You can check if you don’t believe me – ‘Wellington Boots’, posted on 24th June.

I had Lawes starting and as an aside Clive Woodward also chose Tipuric – smart bloke!

I didn’t have either CJ Stander or Jack Nowell in my 23.

Being close to the actual selection doesn’t mean anything of course – it may turn out that both Warren and I have made bad decisions.

My main worry is that if WG was really serious about the 10-12 axis he (and I) have gone for, why the fuck didn’t he start them together in at least one of the run up games?

The real test (sic) will be on Saturday

Press Complaint

The most interesting thing about yesterday’s All Black press conference didn’t turn out to be the team selection.

It was Steve Hansen having a go at the NZ media for the disrespectful ‘clown’ caricature of Warren Gatland

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/29/steve-hansen-warren-gatland-lions-all-blacks

“I think it is really disappointing. It’s one thing to have a bit of banter, and then you guys beef it up to make it bigger than it really is. I have heard you say that I don’t like him, and we won’t have a beer.

“I have got a lot of respect for him. I think he is a good coach. I have got a lot of respect for the Lions, they are a good team. To come out and do that, you are ridiculing somebody that doesn’t deserve it.

It’s about time someone in the All Black camp commented on the disrespectful campaign against Gatland. It’s not Steve Hansen’s job – so good on him for being the one to speak up.

The team announcement was a foregone conclusion – with Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty out injured it was pretty certain that the replacements that came on would stay.

absteamsecondtestraaaa

The only real news was that the wrecking ball that is Ngani Laumape is an additional attacking threat on the bench – as if they need any more!

 

Photo Finish

I haven’t had to mention the ‘Great Donzo’ for a bit, so I guess he must be doing a bang up job

In fact I jolly well think he’s a bit misunderstood and been right all along about all the fake news and piss taking that he’s been so unfairly subjected to!

The latest is a spurious suggestion that he’s been knocking out fake covers of ‘Time’ Magazine to put up all around the clubhouses on his golf course.

I mean who the fuck would be stupid enough to do something like that?

img481You’d have to be a total moron wouldn’t you?