British and Irish Lions: A 30-15 loss at Eden Park was a hammer blow to the Lions’ chances of securing their first series victory over the Kiwis since 1971, and they now need to secure back-to-back wins against a formidable All Blacks outfit if they are to repeat the heroics from 46 years ago. The tourists played out a thrilling 31-31 midweek draw against the Hurricanes, and with four wins from eight tour games thus far, the Lions will have to put everything on the line if they are to emerge victorious inside ‘The Cake Tin’.
New Zealand: Steve Hansen’s men were in imperious form last weekend, as they took a giant step towards a Test series victory with a 15-point victory over the Lions. Their whole XV played some scintillating ball-in-hand, heads up rugby, with Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Beauden Barrett leading the way with commanding performances, and they’ll be looking to finish the job in Wellington as they eye a 3-0 series whitewash to follow the Class of 2005.
The Lions, 6/4 with Ladbrokes to score the game’s first points, were always expected to make changes following their crushing loss in Auckland, and Gatland has brought in Itoje to partner Alun-Wyn Jones at lock, selected Sexton at fly-half to play alongside inside centre Owen Farrell, and named returning skipper Warburton at blindside flanker. Courtney Lawes, CJ Stander and Jack Nowell – 4/1 to come off the bench and be the Lions’ first tryscorer – have all been named on the bench after striking displays against the Hurricanes, as has New-Zealand born Ben Te’o who can count himself unlucky to be omitted from the XV.
The front row and back-three remain unchanged for the visitors, whilst George North and Robbie Henshaw have both been ruled out of the rest of the tour through injury. George Kruis and Peter O’Mahony have dropped out from the matchday squad altogether, whilst there’s no place for impressive Ulsterman Iain Henderson. The Lions are a tempting 18/1 to score four tries this Saturday, with Anthony Watson priced 90/1 to score what would be a sensational hat-trick.
Gatland’s tourists will need to improve their discipline, physicality, game-management and try-scoring if they are to match their hosts, and Boylesports have priced the Lions at 7/5 to score over 17.5 points. Only a win will do for the men in red desperate to take the series to a winner-takes-all clash third Test in Auckland, and they’re 16/1 to claim the most famous of scalps by 6-10 points. Alternatively, odds for a Lions/Lions Halftime/Full Time bet are priced at 10/1 .
The All Blacks pack remains unchanged after a controlling display last weekend, with Kieran Read leading the side once more from the back-row, and the hosts have made two enforced changes behind the scrum. Anton Lienert-Brown of the Chiefs replaces injured Ryan Crotty at outside centre, and Waisake Naholo comes in for a concussed Ben Smith in the back-three, with Crusaders’ Israel Dagg moving to full-back. A back is 4/11 with BetVictor to score the game’s first try, and New Zealand’s backline will be looking to put their opponents to the sword with another ruthless, efficient display of running rugby and support lines. Ioane Rieko retains his place after a try-scoring performance last weekend, and the winger is 5/4 for Score/Win double betting odds. After an eye-catching midweek performance for the Hurricanes, Ngani Laumape has also been brought into the bench, and the 24-year-old could make his Test debut if he’s brought onto the field of play.
There is a reason why New Zealand are the best team in world rugby, and for the Lions, this tour was always going to be a brutal, gruelling slugfest off the back of a long domestic season. They’ll have to find something from within to pull off the unthinkable, and although the men in the famous red jersey will give their all and more to level the series 1-1, you just cannot see the hosts slipping up on home soil. It could be a closer game compared to Eden Park, but expect the same result when the full-time whistle is blown at the Westpac Stadium.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: New Zealand to win by 1-10 points – 11/4
*Please note, odds may fluctuate