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

Matt Jones - Editor 20:42 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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