The Lions' first Test of the summer is almost upon us and we finally know who has made coach Warren Gatland starting line up.
The New Zealander has stuck to his guns and chosen to select players in form rather than players by name and reputation - namely left winger Elliot Daly and full-back Liam Williams.
This isn’t necessarily a new or strange tactic from Gatland, who infamously dropped Brian O’Driscoll for the final game of the 2013 tour against Australia.
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Gatland admitted only last week that he had a selection headache ahead of the first Test. With George North being his usual selection, the recent impressive displays of Daly and Williams turned his head slightly. “The selection meeting will be tough and that’s the way we want it,” Gatland said.
Although many will be feeling déjà vu from 2013, this time around it seems Gatland has solid ground with which to make this switch. It’s clear George North has been inconsistent so far on this tour and Gatland is looking for someone more adventurous to do some damage.
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Nevertheless, it was not a decision made lightly, and Gatland revealed why Daly and Williams have been given the nod.
“There was a healthy debate about the back three and our message to the players has always been that if they come to New Zealand they have to be bold,” the Lions boss said, as per The Guardian.
“Yes, we play with structure but we have to have the confidence to bring an off-loading game. You have got to be courageous when you come here and try and play some rugby. Liam had a chance to impress on Tuesday and he did. I did say that I thought wing was his best position because he can get involved more from there. But he was elusive against the Chiefs and did some damage.”
"Liam had a chance to impress on Tuesday and he did. I did say that I thought wing was his best position because he can get involved more from there. But he was elusive against the Chiefs and did some damage.”
Meanwhile, Daly must be delighted to displace his positional rival North and will certainly look to build on his impressive performance against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Tuesday.
With his blistering pace on the flank and tackles, like the one from kick-off on Tuesday, he will certainly be giving the All Blacks something to think about.
Gatland is taking a huge risk with these surprise inclusions but many are excited by Daly and Williams’ parts in this squad. Warren himself will be able to turn around and shower in the praise of his critics if he pulls off a win against the All Blacks on Saturday, showing that his selection policy and tactical arrangement do hold some merit.
However, if it goes wrong, he’ll be left with some serious interrogations to answer from the media and fans alike.
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