The waiting is finished and the first Test has arrived.
Warren Gatland, head coach of the British & Irish Lions, has sprung a few surprises in picking an attacking back line to take on the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday.
The task ahead of the Lions is Herculean. New Zealand have not lost in Eden Park since 1994, and in a recent warm up game they put 78 points past Samoa without reply.
That said, the weather conditions may be working in the Lions favour, as heavy rainfall is expected for Saturday. This will make an expansive game more difficult to execute and could result in rugby of a stop/start nature, right up the street of the big Lions pack. Now the ABs are by no means mugs up front, but their major strength lies with their offloading game and fast support lines. This is likely to be dulled by slippery conditions.
The ABs are still likely to win this game, they are not the reigning world champions for nothing! But the game may well be tighter than previously expected.
In fact, there may well be some value in suggesting the Lions perform better than widely expected, particularly in the early stages. Many bookies offer 6/1 that the Lions lead at halftime before the All Blacks take over to win the clash, and we’ll have some of that.
The other bet that appeals is the Lions to fail to score a try at 11/4. The management may have picked an attacking team, but everyone is in no doubt how difficult it’s to score a try against such a powerful and streetwise team. The ABs will be happy to give away penalties in difficult situations, and the Lions will be happy to kick the points.
Lions to lead at halftime, All Blacks to win at full time at 6/1, 1 pt, widely available
Lions to fail to score a try at 11/4, 1 pt, widely available
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