Lions vs New Zealand: The five key battles that could decide the first Test

After three weeks of memorable warm-up matches, the British and Irish Lions face the real thing on Saturday in the first Test against New Zealand.

Expect the tourists to have the edge in the scrum and goal-kicking – but the All Blacks may cut the Lions open with their free-running offload game.


LIONS LATEST

GOALKICKING: Owen Farrell has been in the form of his life and knowing he doesn’t often miss gives the Lions an edge.

Beauden Barrett, on the other hand, isn’t even the regular kicker for his club side, Hurricanes, and when he has lined up the tee his stats aren’t pretty, successfully kicking just 56% of his attempts in Suoer Rugby this season.

The Lions also have the monster boot of Elliot Daly to call upon when needed.

SCRUM: The tourists’ front five will try to squeeze the life out of the All Blacks.

I don’t expect total dominance, but perhaps this is a solid base for Conor Murray and Owen Farrell to play off.

Both sides will be strong off the bench with this one really going either way.

WHO HAS THE SIZE FACTOR?
Lions – weight
Average weight: 105.25kg
All Blacks average weight: 103.82kg
All Blacks – height
Average height: 188.12cm
Lions average weight: 186.86cm

LINEOUT: George Kruis has masterminded an impressive lineout for the tourists, but it would be foolish to think the All Blacks haven’t been watching and assessing the situation.

In a match likely to be decided by possession, retaining the ball or turning it over at the lineout could be huge.

Maro Itoje off the bench could give the Lions extra stability late in the game, which could be crucial if the scores are still close.

LEADERSHIP: Peter O’Mahony showed his worth as captain last weekend and will have the likes of Owen Farrell and Alun Wyn Jones supporting him on the field.

However, All Blacks skipper Kieran Read is a terrific leader of men and having him return from a thumb injury may hand the edge narrowly to the hosts in this department.

He’s a big part of why they’ve seamlessly transitioned following the retirements of Ma’a Nonu, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter among others after their Rugby World Cup triumph in 2015..

FINISHING: Tries, in general, have not come easy for the Lions with Penalty tries being their joint top scorer alongside Jack Nowell, who isn’t included in the matchday 23.

Meanwhile, the ferocious All Blacks, who ran in 12 against Samoa last weekend, always look on the cusp of scoring when they get into their offloading game.

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