Why Warren Gatland is likely to take Roberts and Te’o to New Zealand

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Despite suggestions from many in the Twitter-verse that the only way Jamie Roberts could feature on the Lions tour to New Zealand this year is through a role as a team medic, it seems increasingly likely that he is to be named as one of the centres selected in the squad to be announced on Wednesday, as suggested by UK-based media such as The Telegraph.

The 2009 and 2013 tourist has been a world-class player in his day, but there were thoughts that his time at the top echelon of world rugby were coming to an end, particularly as he has not been first choice for Wales this season. However, he has continued to plug away at Harlequins, with some evidence that his ‘breaking-the-gainline’ game has still been effective at the top level.

Why Jamie Roberts?

Jamie Roberts has been desperate to be selected for a third Lions tour. It seems as if he has got his wish! There are three simple reasons why Gatland would select Jamie Roberts.

  1. The Lions lack the preparation and build-up time for this tour, and so Gatland will want to use tried and trusted players to put his game plan in to effect. This would include big-name players who have previously shown the mettle in tough situations and in the biggest of games. Roberts certainly fits this mantle with his performances in Grand Slam wins for Wales and impressive Rugby World Cup performances in 2011 and 2015.
  2. Roberts is perfect to create ‘Warrenball Mark 2’. If Roberts is able to replicate his best form and punch holes in the New Zealand defence from first phase, it can create the space elsewhere on the pitch for exciting backs such as Te’o, Farrell and Ringrose to potentially take advantage of. Or at least that’s the thinking.
  3. Roberts was a long-time defensive leader on the pitch for Gatland with Wales. He will look for him to do the same again in New Zealand.

Why Ben Te’o?

Ben Te’o is another who looks to have profited from the type of game plan that Gatland wants to play in New Zealand. He is a big, ball-carrying centre with a hint of that attacking flair that has made its way back in to the top level of rugby over the past two years. He is a powerful unit with quick feet, potentially perfect for unlocking the New Zealand defence.

It seems likely that Roberts and Te’o have made it in to the squad at the expense of players such as Scott Williams and Jonathan Joseph, who both featured far more often for their respective nations this season. However, Gatland has been formulating a plan to beat New Zealand for several months. It is likely that he sees Roberts and Te’o as more effective players in developing and adapting to his proposed style of play in an effort to secure a second Test-series win for the Lions out in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

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