Jason Robinson’s British & Irish Lions 2017 Diary

July 07, 2017

The Lions managed to pull the series back on Saturday, meaning it’s all to play for in the 3rd and final Test.

The visitors would have been happy with certain aspects of their game but equally disappointed with other aspects of their play. They gave away far too many penalties on the weekend and in the last two games they’ve averaged around 12 penalties per game which, against any international team, is too many. Thankfully they weren’t punished as much as they could have been, with Beauden Barrett missing a few kicks. If they’re going to stand a chance this weekend then they will have to cut the amount of penalties down, because although Barrett had a bad day with the boot, I doubt it will happen again this weekend.

This third Test will be the biggest game that any of these players will play in – it doesn’t get bigger than this! Getting the chance to beat the All Blacks in a Test series with the Lions is what most players can only dream of because it is so rare. I was fortunate enough to beat the All Blacks in New Zealand with England back in 2003, but to beat them in back-to-back Test matches will be something that not a lot of people can say that they’ve done. Warren Gatland has gone for an unchanged team, which I think is the good call. Why change a winning formula?

“…when they get on the front foot, they are a tough team to stop.”

You look at the Sexton/Farrell combination and although it was their first time playing together, it worked well so to keep them together was certainly the right call. The players will know each other that little bit more after the win on Saturday and will know what they need to work on as a squad in terms of fine tuning and will have worked hard to rectify a lot of those areas. Once again, discipline will be key, they will also have to stop the All Blacks from having any go forward ball, because when they get on the front foot, they are a tough team to stop.

Ngani Laumape, who comes in for the suspended Sonny Bill Williams, is very direct and will look to target Sexton and Farrell to soften them up and use their channels to get over the gain line. Julian Savea comes into the starting XV for the first time in the Test series and will be looking to prove a point after being dropped for the first two Tests. Savea not being involved just shows the strength and depth that the All Blacks have. New Zealand have a scary unbeaten run going at Eden Park but that will give the Lions a massive incentive to go and break that record and to be that team that ended their winning run at a fortress like Eden Park.

“…they will have to believe in their own ability and trust in their systems.”

There was a lot of talk in the build-up to the Test series saying that the Lions were unable to score tries but they proved the critics wrong by scoring two beautifully worked tries to New Zealand’s zero in the 2nd Test and will take confidence going into the decider knowing that they can score tries but also knowing that defensively they can stop the All Blacks from crossing the whitewash. The All Blacks will come out firing this week, much more than they did last week so the Lions will have a tough task ahead of them. They had the advantage for the majority of the game last week with the All Blacks going down to 14-men but this weekend they won’t be able to count on having a player extra or Beauden Barrett having an off day, they will have to believe in their own ability and trust in their systems.

The All Blacks are without Sonny Bill Williams this week and Ben Smith is still sidelined with a head injury. Jordie Barrett fills in and will win his first start which is a big call, he is a great player but inexperienced at this level and I would expect to see the Lions put him under a lot of pressure. Expect to see plenty of high kicks going his way and big runners trying to soften him up and this could work in the Lions favour. Dagg goes back to the wing, he wasn’t great under the high ball and I expect to see him being tested again. The conditions don’t look like they’re going to be great which I think will favour the Lions with their good set piece. The Lions will be looking to take control of the game through those areas and we will have to shut down Laumape who is a very strong runner and will be looking to punch a through holes in the heart of the Lions defence. Kieran Read wins his 100th cap which adds to the occasion, he is a world-class player and will be looking to have a massive game on his special day.

It’s all to play for, the Lions have a fantastic opportunity to create history this weekend, but they just have to be focused in the process. The Lions will know where they have to improve, they’ve got the likes of Sexton and Farrell who are both great at keeping sides in the right areas of the field and the Lions will have to play in the right areas this week if they are going to beat the World Champions. This is set up to be a fantastic finish to what has been a successful Lions tour.

“The stage is set for the guys to go out there and grab the game by the scruff of the neck and create history.”

They will have wanted it to go down to the third Test and give themselves every opportunity to beat the All Blacks and who know what’s going to happen. The stage is set for the guys to go out there and grab the game by the scruff of the neck and create history. Words can’t express how big this game is but the pressure is definitely on New Zealand. If we’re going by history, records and the stats then they should win this but for me, the pressure is all on New Zealand and the Lions just have to go out there and give it their all and hopefully that will be good enough. The world’s eyes will be on this game and there will be one hell of a party if the Lions can pull it off.

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