Here’s how the New Zealand media reacted to the British & Irish Lions selection to face the All Blacks in the opening Test…
Liam Napier – Stuff
Has Warren Gatland pulled a swifty?
Here we were thinking we had the Lions all figured out. Exclusively crash and bash; kick chase and set piece dominance from the test team, right?
Well, no, perhaps not.
No doubt the Lions will stick to their strengths at Eden Park on Saturday. Conor Murray will box kick frequently; the Lions will back line speed on defence and their pack will roll up their sleeves. But Gatland’s first test selection of his back three in particular suggests he also wants creative players capable of sparking something when needed.
Gatland has benched tour captain Sam Warburton and made Peter O’Mahony skipper as expected but his most telling call is that of Liam Williams over Leigh Halfpenny at fullback.
Itoje is a phenomenal athlete easily capable of going 80 minutes.
There will be many who feel he is wasted on the bench, but it does give the Lions a weapon to try match the impact the All Blacks rely on from their reserves.
Read his full piece HERE
Paul Cully Stuff
New Zealanders need to wake up to what All Blacks Steve Hansen has been saying all along – they are about to collide with a serious rugby team at Eden Park on Saturday.
The British and Irish Lions are better than anyone they faced at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, when the northern hemisphere sides were innovative only in the ways they managed to shoot themselves in the foot.
The traits of this Lions team are similar to the 2015 Springboks, against whom the All Blacks struggled in the semifinal: the difference is this Lions team is better in every department.
They have a bigger scrum, better depth, a superior lineout and a kicking No 9 who is at least the equal of Fourie du Preez in his twilight.