Thursday 23 November 2017

Bench warmers simply need to bide their time

Conor Murray of the British and Irish Lions. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Conor Murray of the British and Irish Lions. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile Newsdesk Newsdesk

It's tough on those still awaiting that initial run-out, but not being in the 23 to face the Blues tomorrow looks, from this distance, a pretty good place to be.

I am thinking specifically of Jonathan Davies, George North, Conor Murray and Sean O'Brien in terms of likely involvement against the Crusaders on Saturday when the Test skeleton begins to take shape.

Assuming all are fit and firing for selection, then they will be in the mix for Christchurch. First comes the Blues - no longer at the top of the pile, but still a significant force in Super Rugby.

I like what I'm hearing from the head coach in terms of a need for that little piece of magic, that unexpected offload, if they are to compete with the All Blacks.

Save for the front and back rows, the team is picked in units based on national familiarity. Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne will combine in midfield, with English wings Jack Nowell and Elliot Daly on either flank. Welsh half-backs Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar will link up, as well as a powerful English but extremely mobile lock pairing in Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes.

The front and back rows are entirely experimental and yet there is an onus on Ken Owens as captain to eke out a performance with a hell of a lot more energy and self-belief than we witnessed in Whangarei.

Irish Independent

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