British and Irish Lions: The Lions return to Eden Park – the scene of their first Test defeat – off the back of that famous 24-21 victory last weekend to keep the series alive. Pre-tour, the Lions weren’t expected to have anything to play for in the final week, and this match was supposed to be a dead rubber with the hosts looking for yet another ruthless whitewash. However, the visitors have given themselves a fighting chance of a Test series victory with that scintillating win on the North Island.
New Zealand: It’s unusual for the All Blacks to lose a game of rugby, so the New Zealand public will be expecting a response from their side this Saturday. Their last reverse at home came against South Africa in 2009, and consecutive defeats are almost unheard of from a Kiwi perspective. The second Test was also the first time in 39 games New Zealand have failed to score a try, and the players have a point to prove in one of the biggest games of their careers.
Warren Gatland has named an unchanged Lions XV for consecutive Tests, the first time that has happened since 1993, and his men are 11/10 to prevail with a +11 handicap. It’s testament to this group of players that they’ve been entrusted with securing a first series win in New Zealand since 1971, striving for illustrious back-to-back victories over their hosts. 26 Lions players have been used in this Test series – the lowest number in the professional era - and the tourists are 2/1 to be leading after 20 minutes.
The Lions are a tempting 9/1 to win both halves, and Mako Vunipola retains his place at loosehead despite conceding four penalties and being yellow-carded in Wellington. Sam Warburton leads the team again, alongside Taulupe Faletau and Sean O’Brien in the back-row, and Owen Farrell and Johnny Sexton continue their 10-12 axis. With no Scotsman in the matchday squad, it’s the first time since 1950 that only three of the four home nations have been represented in the Tests.
The Lions are 11/10 to score first in Auckland, and they’ll need to get off to a strong start like they did in Wellington. They scored two tries in ‘the Cake Tin’ through Faletau and Conor Murray, and the Irishman is 7/2 to cross the whitewash again this weekend. The visitors will need to keep up their impressive defensive effort, improve their discipline after conceding 13 penalties, and take the points on offer when they come along. They are 1/2 to convert their first try, and Farrell will need to be accurate from the tee. If he is, the Lions to win by 1-10 points could be a good bet.
After Sonny Bill Williams’ red card at the Westpac Stadium, head coach Steve Hansen has reshuffled his New Zealand backline. Williams’ dismissal was the first time ever a New Zealand player has ever been sent off at home, and the first time an All Black had been sent off since 1967. Hansen’s men haven’t lost at Eden Park since 1994, and they’re 13/5 to be leading at half-time by 6-10 points.
The forward pack remains the same for the third Test, but Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape and Julian Savea come in behind the scrum for Williams, Rieko Ioane and Waisake Naholo. Barrett and Laumape are poised to make their first Test starts, the latter partnering Anton Lienert-Brown in what is an inexperienced midfield combination, an area the Lions will look to target, and Israel Dagg has moved from full-back to the wing. Savea has 46 tries in 53 Tests and the winger is a 6/1 to be the game’s first try-scorer on his return to the side.
Billed by the New Zealand public as the country’s biggest game since the 2015 Rugby World Cup final, the hosts are 4/6 to score first and win, and Beauden Barrett will want to notch up a better kicking percentage this week. The Hurricane will once again be a key figure from fly-half, but missed a number of kickable penalties in Wellington.
Although the Lions will give their all to contribute to a winning cause and rewrite the history books, smart money will be on New Zealand to secure a 2-1 series victory. They’re playing at fortress Eden Park, the players will be desperate to make amends after a rare loss, and the Lions have one game left of what has been a punishing ten-match tour after a long domestic season with club and country. The men in red will leave everything out there, but it may not be enough on a ground where the All Blacks haven’t lost for 23 years.
- Sports.net’s Top Tip: New Zealand to win by 9 points – 22/1
Please note that odds may fluctuate in the lead up to kick off.