Second Test in DHL Lions series holds fans full attention

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After the All Blacks held their composure best up in Auckland, the second test of this highly popular DHL Lions Series holds fans full attention. ‘Who will triumph?; Which player changes will bear the most rewards?’ and other questions are on the lips of fans across the Rugby World.

More of those now exist after the consequences of the drawn midweek match against the Hurricanes. The reaction to the outcome, plus the admission by head coach Warren Gatland that his coaching panel decided only to insert substitutions for injuries only, was instant and harsh. An alarming strategy, if it was truly a reaction to criticism received by outside factions.

Apart from that topical point, the intensity of this encounter will hold attention. The traveling fans are vocal enough, as well as being hard to miss visually. Now, they will be crying out “Lions…Lions…Lions!” even louder. Buoying on their countrymen with vigour and a combined strength to square the DHL Lions Series 1-1.

Second Test in DHL Lions Series Holds Fans Full Attention

The Lions camp must feel both a sense of pride; with all this loud support, but also like sitting ducks. Yet coupled with overseas and local New Zealand press, the throbbing under-belly of criticism, irritation, and abuse must haunt these players wherever they go. It has been as tough as it gets. There are no easy mid-week games on this tour (see the Blues, Highlanders and Hurricanes results).

Each and every side that takes to the field against the men in red is out to claim their own slice of history and no doubt, to impact on the Lions selections. The ‘Canes did just that and New Zealand will target consecutive wins.

Head coach Warren Gatland described this test as “the match to get into a ‘Cup final’ and we have our full attention on the outcome.”

The Challenge is Tough, to Say the Least

It is worth noting that this British and Irish Lions squad are not just on a 10 match tour to one of the most beautiful and passionate rugby countries in the world. Rather it is a full, frank and brutal internal body search of each players qualities. Men like Iain Henderson played a monstrous game Tuesday–running hard and leaping high in the lineout, but mixed with a poor tip-tackle–the pressure can bring out the best, and the worst in players and supporters.

Touring must bring it’s own issues, but when the home fans are also as passionate–possibly not as emotive though–it will make for an atmosphere where both rugby purists and part time fans both can enjoy rugby’s greatest series.

Attention also falls on the referee, Jerome Garces. His interpretation will be an important element but surprisingly, the All Blacks are yet to feel a loss under his control. With such an amazing International winning record, the home side suffer losses less often than any other team in modern history. Their fans will hope that this winning trend continues.

And the home side have also had some negative attention on them, for supposed actions.

Gatland and British Media Assault on Jerome Kaino

One victim from the first test was Jerome Kaino. In one glaring example of poor execution by the player who will break 80 tests Saturday, he was seen to attempt a charge down. It was poorly timed, he missed and collided with Connor Murray’s leg. Warren Gatland came out and blatantly accused the All Blacks of ‘targeting the legs’.

In what must have felt like target practice, he was presented to the media to defend his actions. In one way, All Black management may have wanted to remove him from that pressure, but full credit to Kaino for facing the barrage of questions. Similarly to how Tana Umaga had to answer his inquisition [in relation to a 2005 incident] but this week the Blues flanker stood tall, and said “I’m a clean player. No intent,” and end of story.

But that is the full attention that this series is holding. With a large media pack following every move, the reaction and reporting is bigger than your everyday Super Rugby match. Both in what is usually published, and sadly some utter rubbish which does spoil the positivity that the game deserves.

Huge Test Saturday at Westpac Stadium

The All Blacks team has been named to play the second test of the DHL Lions Series against the British and Irish Lions in Wellington, Saturday July 1st.

New Zealandplayer number, name and (test caps).

1. Joe Moody (26)
2. Codie Taylor (17)
3. Owen Franks (92)
4. Brodie Retallick (62)
5. Samuel Whitelock (86)
6. Jerome Kaino (79)
7. Sam Cane (42)
8. Kieran Read (98) – Captain
9. Aaron Smith (60)
10. Beauden Barrett (51)
11. Rieko Ioane (3)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (35)
13. Anton Lienert-Brown (11)
14. Waisake Naholo (12)
15. Israel Dagg (63)
16. Nathan Harris (6)
17. Wyatt Crockett (60)
18. Charlie Faumuina (48)
19. Scott Barrett (6)
20. Ardie Savea (14)
21. TJ Perenara (31)
22. Aaron Cruden (48)
23. Ngani Laumape – debut

The match day squad sees two expected changes through injury. Winger Waisake Naholo has been named on the right wing, with Israel Dagg moving to fullback. Anton Lienert-Brown comes in at centre, with new All Black Ngani Laumape being rewarded for his standout performance for the Hurricanes on Tuesday night. He will join the match day 23, and is rearing to ‘hit the ground running’.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said: “Whilst it’s disappointing to lose both Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty, it creates an opportunity for others. ‘Izzy’ (Israel Dagg) is a world-class back three player, as is Anton in the midfield, and both Waisake and Ngani are coming into the test side following outstanding performances against the Lions for their respective Super Rugby franchises.

“Whilst we were happy with the win last weekend, we know that it was just a start, in what is a three-Test Series. That means the job is far from done.

“It’s going to require us to take our game to a higher level.”

“It’s going to be very demanding, physically and mentally, on both sides. We’re aware the British and Irish Lions have their backs to the wall and will chuck everything at us to keep themselves alive in the DHL Lions Series. They are a quality side who we respect immensely.”

Rapid Rise for Ngani Laumape

Born on 22 April 1993 in Palmerston North, 24-year-old Ngani Laumape attended Palmerston North Boys’ High School. He toured the UK and Thailand with the school’s First XV and was selected to play second-five for the New Zealand Secondary Schools team in 2011.

Despite his success, he made the decision to sign with the NZ Warriors rugby league team when he left school, and by 2014 he was an established starter in the squad. The following year he suffered an injury, and while recuperating he investigated a return to rugby union. Signing first with Manawatu, he made his Investec Super Rugby debut for the Hurricanes in the opening match of the 2016 season.

Super Rugby Rd 8 - Blues v Hurricanes
Ngani Laumape of the Hurricanes makes a break at Eden Park on April 15, 2017. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Ngani made 11 appearances, including seven starts, to help the Hurricanes win the club’s inaugural Super Rugby title.  His strong performances in 2017 sees him lead the competition, a constant line breaker and beats defenders often. He’s currently joint leader on the competition try scoring table, with 14 tries and just one round remaining.

LWOR writer Scott Maclean wrote of Laumape’s rapid rise, and his prediction has rung true. Fans will wish him all the best, and maybe he is the next future star to make the Lions time in the second test a difficult task indeed. His addition adds even more impetus, to hold fans full attention.

2017 Lions Tour Pinboard

The DHL New Zealand Lions Series is the 13th tour to New Zealand by the Lions. The first game between the Lions and the All Blacks was in 1904. The teams have played 39 Test matches. The All Blacks have won 30 of those matches.

Charlie Faumuina (L) and Kieran Read. (Photo credit MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP/Getty Images)

Kieran Read is playing his 99th test match, and Charlie Faumuina his 49th. With a good performance by each (and no injuries) both may celebrate significant achievements next week. Polar opposites, but both pillars that this All Blacks team is built upon–however Faumuina is in his final season, as he is leaving for the profitable shores of France. A great farewell would make it all the better.

But like all the fans, Last Word on Rugby wish both teams another great test match. It might be the tipping point, but remember that the Lions bring quality and tenacity–so expect a fantastic example of International rugby union.

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