5 Conclusions From The Lions Tour Opener
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Game one down.
The Lions opened up their tour of New Zealand with a win over the Provincial Barbarians, but it was far from impressive.
While the players haven’t had much time to prepare and jet lag is no doubt still fresh in their bodies and minds, a lot of players will come away from Whangarei today disappointed with their performance in the famous red shirt.
The goal of this tour is to win Test matches at the end of the day, but with such a short run up to the big arena, the Lions need to find their feet fast. While today will be quickly forgotten about as Gatland’s men shift focus to Wednesday and the Auckland Blues, we can take some conclusions from the game that may impact the tour.
Sexton is way off the mark.
Johnny Sexton is not himself. The Ireland playmaker has had a stop/start season due to a number of niggling injuries and it’s starting to really show. A shocking performance agains the Scarlets in Leinster’s PRO12 semi-final, followed up by today’s disaster leaves Sexton with a mountain to climb. Farrell currently leads the way for the ten jersey unless Sexton can produce some performances of old in the next couple of weeks. If there’s any man that can do it however, it’s him.
Toby Faletau can fill the massive void left by Billy Vunipola.
Super performance by the Welshman this morning. Some excellent carries and a try-saving tackle in the first-half. Finished the season in the form of his life and looks set to continue with it right through the tour. He’s no Billy, but he certainly showed that ‘mongrel edge’ this morning!
The New Zealand clubs aren’t here to make up the numbers.
Today’s game was supposed to be the easiest of the lot. If it was, then god help the Lions. They face the likes of the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Crusaders over the next few weeks and you can be sure they won’t give the Lions an easy ride to the All Blacks. There’s absolutely no doubt in our minds the Lions will lose one of these games. It’s how they react to the loss that will shape the series.
Test places are up for grabs.
After this morning’s disappointing performance it’s safe to say there are a lot more Test jerseys up for grabs than we initially expected. The starting XV to take on the All Blacks is far from picked and the next few weeks will see it change several times.
The pressure is already on for the Lions.
The Lions are already being butchered by the British, Irish and New Zealand media after this morning’s game. How they react to this will be huge. While most of it is nonsense and way over exaggerated, it’s still going to affect the players. Hopefully it spurs them on.