The British and Irish Lions were poor on Saturday, in what is likely to be the Northern Hemisphere side’s weakest opposition in the Provincial Union XV.
With all due respect to the New Zealand BaaBaas team, they were expected to be brushed aside by the touring team; with people anticipating the XV to try and simply keep the scoreline respectable.
Instead, the brilliance of Bryn Gatland, coupled with a collection of errors from the Lions led to an edgy 13-7 victory; the touring side failed to look convincing during any period of the match.
Aside from positive performances from both Ben Te’o and Kyle Sinckler, there was not a lot to take from the game in Whangarei.
It’s therefore no surprise that Warren Gatland has named an entirely starting new XV to face the Blues this coming Wednesday:
Backs: 15 – Leigh Halfpenny; 14 – Jack Nowell, 13 – Jared Payne, 12 – Robbie Henshaw, 11 – Elliot Daly; 10 – Dan Biggar, 9 – Rhys Webb.
Forwards: 1 – Jack McGrath, 2 – Ken Owens (c), 3 – Dan Cole; 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Courtney Lawes; 6 – James Haskell, 7 – Justin Tipuric, 8 – CJ Stander.
Welsh hooker, Owens, will skipper the side, following a confidence boost from Gatland:
“In terms of Ken, he has worked really hard on his recovery and it is great to have him available. He has captained the Scarlets and has assumed a leadership role within the camp and it is a great opportunity for him.”
The Lions could be facing a familiar face in the Blues side, with Sonny Bill Williams expected to be fit to start at 12 for the New Zealand side.
The challenge of the Blues is likely to present a far greater test for the Lions, who if continue to make the unforced errors they did against the Barbarians, the Northern Hemisphere side could come up short against the Super Rugby outfit.