The 2017 British and Irish Lions tour continues this evening as they travel south to Dunedin for an outing against the Highlanders. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage with kick off scheduled for 5:35pm (AEST) from Forsyth Barr Stadium.
After a superb victory over the leading Super Rugby side, the Crusaders, last Saturday night, the Lions will be looking to continue their momentum.
As the demands of the short turnaround show, a very different starting side has been named here by coach Warren Gatland, which provides a further opportunity for those selected to impress the coaching staff ahead of the Tests selection.
One criticism of the Lions tour to date has been their inability to find the try line. The tourists have scored just two from three outings thus far on tour and we can be sure the Lions will want to see an improvement on this front. Conditions will be perfect under the roof this evening.
Of particular interest will be the performance of the Lions’ backline, one area which does not look settled from the centres onwards. Robbie Henshaw and Jonathan Joseph will be looking for a big performance tonight to stake their claims while the Lions’ back three will be switched on to take their opportunities when they present themselves.
While it would appear Owen Farrell, Jonathan Sexton and Connor Murray would be the frontrunners for the run on Test side in a few weeks, it is a grand opportunity for Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb to push into contention for the match-day 23 with a controlled and secure performance tonight.
The Lions will fancy their chances up front this evening with an experienced pack named and most eyes will be trained on the form of tour captain Sam Warburton and his performance this evening with the Test matches around the corner.
While the Highlanders are missing some of their bigger names due to Test commitments, most notably Smith and Smith (Aaron and Ben), they have still managed to name a few representative stars with Lima Sopoaga and Waisake Naholo leading the charge. Centre Malakai Fekitoa will have a point to prove after missing selection in the All Blacks squad.
The Highlanders certainly possess some strike power among their backs and a poorly executed defensive pattern and kicking game could prove troublesome for the Lions tonight.
Up front, it does look on paper that the home side are well up against it faced with such seasoned opposition, but time and time again they have defied the critics and stood up to be counted. This is a whole other level though, but they will have familiarity on their side against a fresh Lions line up.
While the Highlanders’ backs look lethal, I cannot look past the strength of the Lions up front and expect they will control the game and for long periods and, as a result, the scoreboard.
Lions by 12.
Join us from 5.35pm (AEST) as I cover all the action live and feel free to utilise the comments section below with your observations on the match below.