A third different line-up for the Lions will take on the Crusaders in Christchurch early tomorrow morning (our time) just two weeks before the first test.
The Crusaders have 9 All Blacks in their squad – 8 of them in the starting line-up.
The tight 5 are All Blacks plus they will have Israel Dagg at 15 and AB injury cover Matt Todd and Jack Goodhue starting.
Richie Mo’Unga, who has been hailed by the media as the new Dan Carter wears number 10.
The Lions have a strong line-up too – but they are yet another different mix and many are playing together in a team for the first time –
Team: S Hogg; G North, J Davies; B Te’o, L Williams; O Farrell; C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong; AW Jones (capt), G Kruis; P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, T Faletau
Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, D Cole, M Itoje, CJ Stander, R Webb, J Sexton, A Watson
One or two haven’t even played against each other!
From this game on Warren Gatland has to pick his first and second team squads – there is little time to get settled combinations, defensive patterns and attack strategies in place.
The Crusaders are unbeaten in Super Rugby this season and, if you’ve watched them, you’ll know just how effective they are – playing together all year inevitably gives them an edge.
I really really hope that the Lions can win and get their tour back on track (or on track for the first time frankly) – if they are to win it will be by grinding them up front, starving them of the ball and suffocating their attempts to run from deep (or anywhere to be honest).
It is a big ask but with the help of Owen Farrell’s tactical and place kicking they might just pull off a famous and much needed victory. Lions by 5 (fingers firmly crossed).
Lose and the tour will be in danger of becoming a last crusade.