It’s nearly here, one of the highlights of this sporting summer. The British & Irish Lions Tour kicks off on Saturday as the tourists take on New Zealand Provincial Barbarians at Whangarei.
The Lions are widely expected to win Saturday’s game, playing against a scratch outfit, but the tour is likely to get considerably harder from then on.
They have only ever won one test series in New Zealand–the legendary 1971 side (Willie-John, Gareth Edwards, Barry John – pictured above for inspiration!) –and were heavily beaten in all three tests in 2005, the last time they visited these islands.
That said, the difficulty of beating the All Blacks is well known–they have won the last two rugby World Cups–and it’s hard to see an edge betting on the series outcome.
Instead, we’re going to look at the composition of the Lions team for the first Test, on June 24.
Owen Farrell is widely expected to be picked as inside centre, the role he filled with distinction as England won the Six Nations. However, he went on the previous Lions tour and coach Warren Gatland preferred the bulk of specialist centre and game-line breaker Jamie Roberts, using Farrell only as replacement fly half. Also, Farrell could still play as fly half, either if Johnny Sexton is injured or as a form selection. Given Farrell is odds on to fill this position, there must be value elsewhere. SkyBet offers 5/2 that Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw is selected, but we’ll take the 7/1 that England’s Ben Te’o, who starts Saturday, fills that role.
On a related note, England are odds on to provide the most players in the Lions team for the first Test. It’s true they have the most in the squad, and have just won the Six Nations again, but Ireland have just beaten the All Blacks and prevented England from winning the Grand Slam. We can see as few as three English starters, even if Te’o plays, with more of an emphasis on the Welsh and Irish.
Bet365 offers 12/5 that Ireland provide the most players, and we’ll be on that.
Te’o to play inside centre in first Test, 1pt at 7/1, SkyBet
Ireland to provide most starters in first Test, 1pt at 12/5, Bet365
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