PREVIEW: All Blacks v British & Irish Lions Third Test

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Lynn McConnell     06 Jul 2017     Getty Images

New Zealand v British & Irish Lions, Saturday, 8 July 2017, Eden Park, Auckland


In all the preparation for the 2017 tour, and with all other tours since 1971, the achievement of John Dawes' men in becoming the first Lions side to win a series in New Zealand has been referred to. Two of the subsequent touring sides had chances to achieve parity, the 1977 team, or to claim a series, the 1993 team. Now Sam Warburton's men find themselves with the chance to write their own names in history. For the All Blacks there are various motivations to succeed and while their record of recent years, including two Rugby World Cup wins, has been outstanding, they have been challenged in similar ways before. That was most notably against Ireland last year when they lost in Chicago before winning the return game in Dublin. They at least know what they need to do to reverse last weekend's loss.


If there has been one thing that has remained constant in rugby, in spite of all the law changes and differing playing styles, changes in the shape and training of players, it is the fact that rugby has to be won up front. The Lions come into the Test believing they still have more to give. But after last weekend's loss there is plenty for the All Blacks to aspire to. They had to take on the best the Lions could offer with only seven men up front, and the missing player Jerome Kaino, was one of their key components. Returned to full strength, and knowing how well they performed in the first Test, also at Eden Park, the All Blacks should have no greater motivation to respond appropriately on Saturday.


Lions coach Warren Gatland claimed after the second Test that his side's defences had not been stressed by the All Blacks. That was made difficult when losing a player early in the second Test and having seen the Lions five-eighths combination of Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell in action in Wellington, it will be of interest to see what the All Blacks come up with in dealing with their threat. The All Blacks said because of the circumstances they had been unable to take them on in the way they wanted when reduced in numbers so their approach on Saturday will be one specific area of interest.


It is an example of just how seriously the All Blacks have gone about their preparation that the achievement of captain Kieran Read in playing his 100th Test on Saturday, and captaining the side for the 25th time, has gone largely unacknowledged in all the pre-game talk. The general consensus is that Read has eschewed the milestone talk because the greater need is to concentrate on the processes within the side to achieve a desired outcome. He surprised most with the quality of his return to rugby from his broken wrist when starting the first Test and was forced into more of a defensive role in Wellington. His response on Saturday will be seen as a signature step in his leadership development.

New Zealand: 1.Joe Moody, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Brodie Retallick, 5.Sam Whitelock, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Sam Cane, 8.Kieran Read (captain), 9.Aaron Smith, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Julian Savea, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Anton Lienert-Brown, 14.Israel Dagg, 15.Jordie Barrett

Substitutes: 16.Nathan Harris, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Charlie Faumuina, 19.Scott Barrett, 20.Ardie Savea, 21.TJ Perenara, 22.Aaron Cruden, 23.Malakai Fekitoa.

British & Irish Lions: 1.Mako Vunipola, 2.Jamie George, 3.Tadhg Furlong, 4.Maro Itoje, 5.Alun Wyn Jones, 6.Sam Warburton (captain), 7.Sean O'Brien, 8.Taulupe Faletau, 9.Conor Murray, 10.Johnny Sexton, 11.Elliot Daly, 12.Owen Farrell, 13.Jonathan Davies, 14.Anthony Watson, 15.Liam Williams.

Substitutes: 16.Ken Owens, 17.Jack McGrath, 18.Kyle Sinckler, 19.Courtney Lawes, 20.CJ Stander, 21.Rhys Webb, 22.Ben Te'o, 23.Jack Nowell.