After the Lions performance in beating the Crusaders on Saturday the expectation has risen dramatically for the tour.
The team for tomorrow’s game against the Highlanders is very different again and the hope is that they will be able to achieve the same intensity in defence and restrict the open play opportunities from yet another impressive set of backs.
Tony Brown has 7 players missing because of All Black and Maori squads.
In their forwards the only one released is Liam Coltman – although two other names are familiar as they have brothers in the All Blacks squad – Luke Whitelock and Daniel Lienert- Brown.
But don’t be fooled by the lack of star names – this is a very handy pack even without Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire.
Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (c), 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Jackson Hemopo, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Jimmy Lentjes, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Patrick Osborne
British and Irish Lions: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 James Haskell, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rory Best, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Elliot Daly
This is the last chance for some of the Lions to put down a marker to be considered for the test 23 and it will be tough ask as I am sure that Warren Gatland has at least 11 players pencilled in to start plus knows most of his bench.
With Waisake Naholo, Lima Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa the lions will have their hands full – in particular Fekitoa will have a point to prove having missed out on the ABs squad for the Lions tour.
The Forsyth Barr Stadium is completely enclosed – so the Welsh players should feel at home!
It is going to be yet another very close encounter but I have the Lions to finish up 7 points to the good.
Sam Warburton captains the team although there have been some stories from the camp that he may not be fit for the 1st test – not sure how that works, if he’s playing tomorrow why wouldn’t he be fit for Saturday week?