New Zealand Media Brand Gatland’s First Lions Team A ‘Shambles’

Far from impressed.

Warren Gatland named his Lions team for their opening tour game this weekend and it appears the New Zealand media are unimpressed with his selection. Gatland has been criticised by the likes of Steve Hansen and Eddie Jones for his tactical ‘Warrenball’ approach that they believe has no chance of beating the All Blacks.

Mark Reason of believes that Gatland has completely ignored the advice and comments of others, by selecting an XV for the opening game that follows exactly that.

“Either Owen Farrell or Jonny Sexton needs to go up to coach Warren Gatland and plead for him to start his test backline together. The opening selection of the tour is a shambles. The only way it can make any sense is if Gatland intends to play Conor Murray, Owen Farrell and Robbie Henshaw together in the test matches and even then it is an opportunity missed.
But we have been here before. Back in 2013 Manu Tuilagi started at 12 for the Lions in the first match in Hong Kong. For Tuilagi read Ben Te’o this time around. Bash. I hope it is not true, but the early signs are that Gatland will try to take on All Blacks’ skill and speed with British biff and blunder up the middle.”

He goes on to say that a in 2013 the Lions backline did not play together until the first test and “frankly it looked like it.” He reckons the Lions should have “smashed” a poor Australian side 3-0, but “they played like they had only just met.”

Reason says he spoke to Ireland centre Mike Gibson recently who believes it takes five games for a backline to gel together. Something Warren Gatland doesn’t have.

A couple of days ago I was talking at length to Mike Gibson, the brilliant Ireland midfield back who played outside Barry John in 1971, the only time the Lions have won in New Zealand. Gibson told me, “It takes five games to get into a tour, to read your colleagues, the lines they run, how they react in situations. It’s not easy to achieve that potential.”

What do you think? Should Gatland be trialling his important combinations like Sexton/Farrell as early as possible or are we reading too much into his first selection?

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