Wednesday 18 October 2017

Barrett gets first start as Hansen rolls dice

Jordie Barrett gets first start as Lions keep faith for third Test

New Zealand's Jordie Barrett during a training session at The Trust Arena, Henderson. Photo: PA
New Zealand's Jordie Barrett during a training session at The Trust Arena, Henderson. Photo: PA
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Steve Hansen has made a big gamble for the decisive final Test of the Lions series by shaking up his backline and introducing relative newcomer Jordie Barrett at full-back.

The World Cup-winning All Blacks coach has dropped Rieko Ioane, who scored two tries in the first Test, recalling Julian Savea, while he has opted to start Ngani Laumape for the first time rather than pitch Malakai Fekitoa back into his midfield.

It means New Zealand will have plenty of experience on the wing for the all-or-nothing clash as World Cup-winning combination Israel Dagg and Savea man the flanks, but neither Jordie Barrett nor Laumape have ever started a Test match and have two caps between them.

In contrast, Warren Gatland has tasked the same match-day 23 with securing the series win after beating the world champions in Wellington to level the series last weekend.

Full-back Liam Williams is included despite missing part of yesterday's training session with a leg injury, meaning Jack Nowell remains on the bench.

Sam Warburton once again leads the side alongside Taulupe Faletau and Seán O'Brien in the back-row, with the Ireland flanker available after escaping a ban for his swinging arm challenge on Beauden Barrett last week.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen during a training session at The Trust Arena, Henderson. Photo: PA
New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen during a training session at The Trust Arena, Henderson. Photo: PA

Johnny Sexton leads the backline from No 10, partnering Conor Murray and combining with Owen Farrell who once again lines up at inside centre.

Gatland will be hoping the Lions' continuity is to their benefit as they go in search of a historic second series win over New Zealand.

And he'll take positives from the fact that Hansen, whose team couldn't breach the Lions' defence last week, has rejigged his backline entirely.

Interestingly, the Lions were aware of Barrett Jr's inclusion long before the team was named and they were already putting plans in place to test him.

The youngster has a better kicking percentage than his older brother this season and could well take over kicking duties on his first start for his country.

Hansen will hope that his newest centurion Kieran Read and his gnarled pack can steady things for the inexperienced men in his backline.

"This final match is going to be a cracker," he said. "It's the series we expected it to be, as the Lions have quality players. It now comes down to this Saturday - the winner takes all - and that'll create its own unique pressures and it's going to be interesting to see how both sides cope with it.

"We know it'll be a physical and intense match, but just as importantly, it'll be a game where both teams will have moments of momentum, and the ability of everyone to adapt and adjust throughout the 80 minutes will be crucial."

Irish Independent

Independent.ie Comments Facility

INM has taken the decision to remove the commenting facility on its online platform Independent.ie to minimise the legal risk to our business that arises from Ireland's draconian libel awards system.

We continue to look forward to receiving comments through direct email contact or via social media, some of which may still be featured on the website Independent.ie


Editor's Choice

Also in Sport