New Zealand Maoris v The British and Irish Lions — Preview

On Saturday morning, The British and Irish Lions play against The New Zealand Maoris in Rotorua, in what has been billed as the unofficial fourth test in this mammoth task the Lions are facing, that is trying to win a test series in New Zealand.

Looking at the home side first, New Zealand Maoris have selected a very strong side coached by ex-All Black, Colin Cooper. The pack have a strong front five and a back row which will be very physical but not an out and out openside, their back row being Akira Ioane, Elliot Dixon and Liam Messam. The backline could be potent if they get front foot ball, with strike runners and footballers paired up right across the backs. Leinster fans will get an opportunity to see James Lowe play on Saturday, a player I see being a star in the Pro 12 next season, a fantastic footballer, and wingers in Nehe Milner-Skudder and Rieko Ioane who could be a serious danger to the Lions.

Will be interesting to see how Damian McKenzie goes in the 10 shirt, as he has played the majority of this season at fullback for The Chiefs. He is a very talented footballer but can he control a game in the pivot position of fly-half, we will see Saturday. The team is captained by the hooker, Ash Dixon.

Picture courtesy of http://www.sportsjoe.ie

The British and Irish Lions have picked a very strong side, and as we normally see the weekend before a first test, the team is very close to what will take the field a week Saturday barring injuries or a heavy defeat this weekend. The backline I fully expect with the exception of Jonny Sexton, to start the first test, the forwards I am not so convinced by, the props I see starting Saturday starting week Saturday, the hooker position is very close between starter tomorrow Jamie George and Ken Owens, second rows again not sure, as fully expect Alun Wyn-Jones to be either starting or in the matchday 23, which he is not tomorrow.

Back row I believe is still open, with exception of the number 8 position with Taulupe Faletau who has been outstanding on this tour, cemented in that position. Sean O’Brien, who went well against The Crusaders, starts again Saturday in the 7 shirt, but Sam Warburton looms large on the bench and I fully expect Warburton to be given 20–30 minutes Saturday, and if comes through well, he will start in the first test. The side is captained by flanker, Peter O’Mahony, a proud day for the Irishman, who is right in the mix for a starting spot for the first test with a good showing tomorrow.

Prediction

If The New Zealand Maoris gain parity upfront, The British and Irish Lions could be in serious trouble with their backline. The Lions will need to overpower them upfront and make that talented backline make a number of tackles of heavy carrying backs and forwards. The Lions kicking game has to be spot on as well as the kick chase with that opposition back three, and line speed in defence has to be spot on. The British and Irish Lions have been defending narrow and rushing up, so expect Maoris to try to go outside of that defensive line as quickly as they can with cross kicks or miss out passes if the opportunity arises.

This is yet another big test for the tourists, and I am not confident, but neither was I last weekend against The Crusaders, where they earned a great victory. Just fearful that The New Zealand Maoris will score tries and The Lions will have to keep the scoreboard ticking over, but I do not see penalties alone being enough, and as yet, I do not see The Lions scoring enough tries to gain this win.

Predicted Score

New Zealand Maoris 24 British and Irish Lions 19

Line Up’s

New Zealand Maoris

15. James Lowe
14. Nehe Milner-Skudder
13. Matt Proctor
12. Charles Ngatai
11. Rieko Ioane
10. Damian McKenzie
9. Tawera Kerr-Barlow
1. Kane Hames
2. Ash Dixon ©
3. Ben May
4. Joe Wheeler
5. Tom Frankin
6. Akira Ioane
8. Liam Messam
7. Elliot Dixon

Bench
H Elliot, C Eves, M Renata, L Price, K Pryor, B Hall, I West, R Thompson

The British and Irish Lions

15. Leigh Halfpenny
14. Anthony Watson
13. Jonathan Davies
12. Ben Te’o
11. George North
10. Jonathan Sexton
9. Conor Murray
1. Mako Vunipola
2. Jamie George
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Maro Itoje
5. George Kruis
6. Peter O’Mahony ©
8. Taulupe Faletau
7. Sean O’Brien

Bench
K Owens, J McGrath, K Sinckler, I Henderson, S Warburton, G Laidlaw, D Biggar, E Daly

Referee

Jaco Peyper

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