Monday 11 December 2017

All Blacks pack set to target the lineout in O'Mahony's absence

All Blacks captain Kieran Read. Photo: PA
All Blacks captain Kieran Read. Photo: PA
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

New Zealand captain Kieran Read has warned the Lions that his side intend to up their game even further in tomorrow’s second Test in Wellington.

The All Blacks can secure the series with a win at Westpac Stadium and after training at the venue overnight the Crusaders No 8 is anticipating a fierce battle.

He was the outstanding player when leading his team to a comprehensive 30-15 win in the opener in Auckland last week, despite only having recently returned from a hand injury.

The All Blacks dominated the forward exchanges, prompting Lions coach Warren Gatland to question his team’s pride and drop captain Peter O’Mahony and second-row George Kruis.

And if the tourists reckon they can raise their game, the world champions are promising to do the same thing.

“I think it will be a step up,” he said.

“You put those things on the line and makes teams both pretty ruthless and wanting to do the best that they can.

“For us we’ve got to have that same mindset, we can just be waiting for what they’re going to bring, we’ve got to go out there and take it ourselves and lead with our game and impart our game on them.

“We won’t change how we want to play. We just have to subtly operate things and we’ve got a game plan that we feel is right for how we feel the Lions are going to play.

“Mate, if turns out it’s different then we have to adapt on the run out there on the field. Conditions play a part in it as well so we have to adapt to those too.”

With heavy rain forecast for New Zealand’s windy city, the likelihood is that the set-piece will be an important battle ground.

The Lions enjoyed success at lineout time last week, but have taken out their two best specialists in the attempt to up their power game.

And Read wants them to take full advantage.

“I think we’ve got to target the lineout and scrum as a forward pack,” the skipper said.

“It was a tight battle last week as I said before, we weren’t as accurate as we could have been but we managed to steal a little bit of their ball and stop them from getting quality ball from their lineout as well.

“It comes back to our attitude in that area. He’s still a quality player is Maro (Itoje), so he’ll bring something different to the group and we know what that is.

“The weather is out of our control but it will be windier and wetter than last week so I think you can’t just expect to turn up and throw the ball around in those conditions – you have to earn the right to win territory. We will see what happens tomorrow.”

While the scrum and lineout will be key, the inclusion of Sam Warburton alongside Sean O’Brien suggests the Lions are going after the All Blacks in traditionally their strongest area; the breakdown.

Read says his team are ready for the challenge.

“There is not too much of a change for us. Hearing what is coming out of their camp they will definitely target the breakdown more this week than last week,” he said.

“We certainly expect that. They have two guys who normally play openside so their role will be to fetch the ball. If we can dominate some ball carriers it will hopefully nullify what they have got. Certainly (the breakdown) is top of our list this week.

“You can’t just roll out the same gameplan as you had in the first game, you have to adjust and adapt to what is presented your way.

“Both teams have done that – if anything it is going to be even more physical tomorrow. I cannot wait for that battle. There will be slight changes so we will have to be good enough to pick out what they are and utilise that to our advantage.”

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