The British and Irish Lions underwent an intensive training camp before setting off for the southern hemisphere, and this is the first game for the Class of 2017. Four years ago, the 2013 Lions secured a famous 2-1 series victory over Australia with a comprehensive 41-16 rout of the Wallabies in Sydney. The Lions last faced New Zealand in 2005, when they succumbed to an embarrassing 3-0 series whitewash. They’ll be hoping to fare much better this time around, starting in the North Island this weekend.
New Zealand Provincial Barbarians are an invitational side, largely made up of semi-professionals from the local Mitre 10 Cup and Heartland rugby provincial competitions in New Zealand. A scratch side who don’t play very often, they will have undergone only a week’s preparation to face the finest players from Britain and Ireland. However, they do know how to win, with one of their most notable victories coming in 2015 when they famously beat the New Zealand Maori 34-17 in Auckland.
The clash in Whangarei will be the first ever meeting between the two teams, with 32Red offering 1/4 odds on the Lions scoring the first try. The tourists’ last appearance at Toll Stadium ended in a 30-17 victory over North Auckland on their 1993 tour. For much of the host squad, this will be the biggest game of their careers and, coached by Bay of Plenty’s Clayton McMillian and captained by veteran forward Peter Rowe, the side includes representatives from various New Zealand provinces. They are currently 75/1 with 888Sport to pull off a remarkable win by 13+ points.
The home team will relish the opportunity to get stuck into the Lions, and Bryn Gatland – son of the tourists’ head coach Warren – is expected to line up for them at fly-half. Although they come into the game as considerable underdogs, there is no real expectation or pressure on them to secure the most unlikely of victories. They’re 36/1 to prevail in Half Time/Full Time betting, and should play with a freedom to express all that’s good about local Kiwi rugby.
The Lions, 9/2 to be leading by 6-10 points at half-time, will have only been in the southern hemisphere a matter of days when they take to the pitch this weekend. However, the chosen XV will be eager to put their hands up for a Test jersey and they’re 2/1 to get off to a good start and open the scoring with a penalty. Led by flanker and successful 2013 Lions captain Sam Warburton, each member of the 41-man squad is expected to get at least one start in the first three games. On paper this is the easiest fixture of the ten-match tour for the Lions, who are a tempting 250/1 to win all ten games. After facing the Provincial Barbarians, the Lions then come up against the New Zealand Maori, all five Super Rugby sides – Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes – and the All Blacks in a three-match Test series.
The New Zealand Provincial Barbarians will give their all on what should be a grand occasion and a fine start to the tour, but expect the Lions to win quite comfortably by the end of 80 minutes. Some late scores could see the Lions pull away on the scoreboard in the latter portion of the match, meaning followers of the famous red jersey should see the tour get off to a winning start against a resilient, dogged home side.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: British and Irish Lions to win by 21-25 points at 13/2
Please note that odds may fluctuate.