Dafydd James: The Lions can win but they need to be clinical and ruthless against the mighty All Blacks

Matt Jones 30/06/2017
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Dafydd James says Liam Williams is capable of the brilliant, but also makes mistakes

In all honesty I thought the Lions would win the first Test. I thought their strength in depth would shine through but such has been the theme of the tour, the clinical effectiveness hasn’t been there and the composure to finish off those try-scoring opportunities.

We seem to make the breaks, but we’re not getting that final pass away or having the legs to cross the whitewash. Which is particularly frustrating. And against a brilliant side like the All Blacks you need to be clinical. You need to be ruthless and that seems to be missing.

I’m surprised by the omission of Te’o. I thought Te’o kept Sonny Bill Williams quiet in the first Test and as soon as he left the field of play, the Kiwis directed their input straight down that 10-12 channel, and it’s evident they’ll probably do that again.

It surprises me that Warren Gatland has gone for both Farrell and Sexton. I thought he might have dropped Farrell, put Sexton there and kept Te’o. Had that get over the gain line ability.

You have to have a couple of things up your sleeve from a kicking point of view and I do believe their kicking game wasn’t really on par. I thought they kicked aimlessly on occasions and the All Blacks were very clinical with their approach.

After the break they came out on the gun, they were raring to go. That’s been one of the strongest periods throughout the tour, that third after half-time, and they really need to focus on that period again if they are going to cause problems.

I think Alun-Wyn Jones is lucky to keep his place. I thought Henderson and Lawes played exceptionally in the week. Albeit Henderson was yellow-carded and that was detrimental to the final outcome of the game, which was a shame as he’d been having a man-of-the-match display up until that point. Very surprised by that.

James is surprised Ben Te'o is on the bench

James is surprised Ben Te’o is on the bench

The back three are creative and elusive. Liam Williams is a bit of an enigma. Sometimes you don’t really know what he’s going to do, I don’t think he does. It seems to pose a few problems. The try he created was sensational, however, he’s had a mixed tour. He’s had one good game and he was rewarded for that by being selected last week.

He has to play his normal game and with that he is going to make one or two mistakes, but he’s also going to do six or seven good things. I like that, I like the blend of the back three and the dynamics they have there. There’s a wealth of talent and speed. Daly can kick long distances too and Watson’s got a turn of pace and Williams has the ability to beat the first defender.

Sam Warburton’s coming back and will want to make a point against Sam Cane. He’ll be around the field and is very robust. Taulupe Faletau had a quieter game last week so I think we should expect some fireworks in that back row.

All in all I think the Lions have an opportunity but they have to be clinical. That’s the pertinent point. Effective, ruthless. When they make those line breaks, they have to score those tries. And they have to score three or four tries if they’re going to beat the All Blacks. They can’t sit back and wait for penalties.

I think it’s a tall order for the Lions. I’m gutted to say it but I think New Zealand will be that little bit stronger again this week. Gatland has mentioned the Lions need a more physical, composed performance. They need to beat the All Blacks in the physicality stakes and by taking Te’o out of that back line you’re taking out a pawn, which is not the best strategy.

I think the All Blacks will take it up a gear this week so it should be a fantastic spectacle and hopefully it will be a Lions win. But in my heart of hearts I think the All Blacks will win this one. They have a plethora of world class players. Their strength in depth is massive.

But there’s always an opportunity to win. The backs are against the wall and a wounded animal is always the fiercest of competitors.

Dafydd James played for the Lions against Australia in 2001

Dafydd James played for the Lions against Australia in 2001

*Dafydd James earned 48 caps for Wales during a 12-year career, scoring 15 tries. The winger also played in all three Tests as the British & Irish Lions lost the 2001 series Down Under to Australia 2-1, scoring a try in their opening 29-13 win in Brisbane

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Lions coach Andy Farrell backs Johnathan Sexton and Owen Farrell to thrive against the All Blacks

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Owen Farrell (L) and Jonathan Sexton.

Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell can play on instinct for the British and Irish Lions after five weeks “joined at the hip” in New Zealand, according to Andy Farrell.

Lions boss Warren Gatland has paired Sexton and Farrell as dual playmakers for Saturday’s second Test against the All Blacks in Wellington.

The tourists must win at the Westpac Stadium to rescue the three-match series, following last weekend’s 30-15 first Test defeat.

Ireland star Sexton and England playmaker Farrell will start together for the first time on Saturday, but assistant coach Andy Farrell insisted the pair have struck up a natural understanding on the training field.

“They train a lot together, they’ve been joined at the hip for the last five weeks,” said Andy Farrell of his son Owen and Ireland fly-half Sexton.

“They are constantly talking about rugby, they room together.

“So they live and breathe rugby and their partnership will be seamless, I’m sure.

“They are very similar characters. They are both obviously big students of the game and have won a lot of things along the way as well.

“More than anything it’s how they make people feel, how they make the people around them feel; the energy that they bring.”

England centre Ben Te ‘o suffocated New Zealand talisman Sonny Bill Williams last weekend, despite the Lions’ loss at Eden Park.

The Worcester star has been demoted to the Lions’ bench however, with Gatland pushing the attacking envelope in a bid to turn the Test series on its head.

Defence coach Farrell insisted his son Owen can handle Williams’ muscular threats through the 12 channel, however – and backed the Lions to boast an extra attacking edge in Wellington too.

Owen Farrell looks on with Jonathan Sexton during a kicking session at Eden Park.

Owen Farrell looks on with Jonathan Sexton during a kicking session at Eden Park.

“You talk about Sonny Bill and physicality, but it’s time and space that allows that to happen,” said Andy Farrell.

“And these guys are pretty good on line speed as well, never mind the attack.

“And it’s not just about the 10-12 axis, it’s about the combination of the whole team. Having another voice, having another vision out there, so that it’s not just all on the nine and 10.

“Some teams do it, the All Blacks do it with Israel Dagg, he’ll come onto the short side a lot and join the attack there quite a bit.

“Most teams need two guys who are able to do that and that’s what we’ve gone with this week.”

Insisting the Lions have not had to recalibrate their defence for Williams in Te’o’s absence from the starting XV, Farrell continued: “It’s been seamless; there’s a lot made of the 10-12 axis, but it’s about the bigger picture.

“It’s about having another experienced voice, eyes and ears out there and how they make the team function. So it’s been seamless.

“These boys (Sexton and Owen Farrell ) are strong, they’ve been tight from the word go and enjoying each other’s company.”

Andy Farrell also warned the Lions not to expect the All Blacks to play the same way on Saturday as they did last weekend in Auckland.

“If I just concentrated on one player or one way of playing that the All Blacks played I’d be a fool,” said Andy Farrell of his role as Lions defence specialist.

“They are masters of not doing the same thing twice. We’ve got to be ready for all outcomes.”

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Sam Warburton back to lead Lions in second Test against the All Blacks

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Sam Warburton.

Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions in Saturday’s must-win second Test against New Zealand in Wellington.

The Welshman was one of three personnel changes coach Warren Gatland made Thursday to the starting side that lost the first Test 30-15, including calling in Johnny Sexton at fly-half.

Gatland also picked Maro Itoje to start at lock at the expense of George Kruis, praising his impact off the bench in the first Test.

Sexton’s inclusion sees Owen Farrell move to inside centre, forcing Ben Te’o onto the replacements’ bench.

Peter O’Mahony, who captained in the first Test, was not even included in the matchday 23 as Gatland called up Warburton and preferred CJ Stander on the bench.

Courtney Lawes was also included in the replacements after a strong performance in the 31-31 draw against the Hurricanes on Tuesday and Jack Nowell replaces Leigh Halfpenny on the bench.

Gatland said he had to make some tough decisions as the Lions seek to level the three-Test series.

“We saw Maro’s impact in the first Test and he will bring an edge and a physicality, as will Sam Warburton in terms of pressure on the ball,” he said.

“It’s tough on Peter O’Mahony who has done a brilliant job for us. We had to look at the bench and we felt that CJ Stander’s ball-carrying and defence was the right choice for the bench.”

He said the Sexton-Farrell combination in the backline increased the Lions’ attacking arsenal.

“Both have played well and it gives us that attacking option in the 10-12 channel,” he said.

“We created opportunities in the first Test and there were a few that we didn’t finish.”

LIONS (15-1): Liam Williams (Scarlets/WAL); Anthony Watson (Bath/ENG), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/WAL), Owen Farrell (Saracens/ENG), Elliot Daly (Wasps/ENG); Johnny Sexton (Leinster/IRL), Conor Murray (Munster/IRL); Taulupe Faletau (Bath/ENG), Sean O’Brien (Leinster/IRL), Sam Warburton (capt, Cardiff/WAL); Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/WAL), Maro Itoje (Saracens/ENG); Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/IRL), Jamie George (Saracens/ENG), Mako Vunipola (Saracens/ ENG)

REPLACEMENTS: Ken Owens (Scarlets/WAL), Jack McGrath (Leinster/IRL), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins/ENG), Courtney Lawes (Northampton/ENG), CJ Stander (Munster/IRL), Rhys Webb (Ospreys/WAL), Ben Te’o (Worcester/ENG), Jack Nowell (Exeter/ENG).

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