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The Surprised Reaction To Warren Gatland's Second Lions Test Team Selection

The Surprised Reaction To Warren Gatland's Second Lions Test Team Selection
By PJ Browne Updated

Warren Gatland named his Lions team for the second Test against the All Blacks in the early hours of this morning. It features a number of surprise selections.

Despite being one of the Lions' best players on tour so far, Ben Te'o has been dropped from the team. He's replaced by Johnny Sexton with Owen Farrell switching to inside centre.

After captaining the Lions in Auckland at the weekend, Peter O'Mahony has been dropped from the 23. Tour captain Sam Warburton comes in to start the game at blindside.

Despite an underwhelming performance in the first Test, it is Alun Wyn Jones who is retained in the second row. George Kruis loses out with Maro Itoje coming in to start the game.

Brian O'Driscoll has called it an 'attack minded' side.

Alex Lowe of The Times suggests that the combination of Sexton and Farrell could help the Lions control the game.

Sexton and Farrell will offer an extra attacking kicking option in midfield, which should help the Lions in their quest to control field position in a way that they failed to last week.

The Lions know that they need to be clinical in attack, and utilising two playmakers will help to bring their dangerous back three of Liam Williams, Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson into the game more — but this is still a bold roll of the dice from Gatland.

Owen Slot, also of The Times, believes the only explanation for the selection of Farrell and Sexton could be that they have clicked in training.

Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell must have been simply outstanding in training. They must be purring. They must be displaying a chemistry like that between Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.

This has to be the explanation for the selection of Sexton and Farrell together at No 10 and No 12. Or, rather, it is the justification that Lions fans will now be clinging onto. It is a far sight better than the alternative interpretation, which is that Warren Gatland is shuffling his cards and has resorted to playing a gambler’s hand.

Some are less enthusiastic about Gatland's changed side.

Mark Reason of New Zealand website Stuff.co.nz questioned why Gatland has changed the habit of a lifetime by selecting a playmaker at inside centre.

But the selection of both Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell at first and second five is a stunner. Gatland never plays a second playmaker at second five. He plays Warrenball. He plays a powerful basher like Ben Te'o or Jamie Roberts to get him over the gain-line. Gatland's whole previous coaching mantra has depended on front-foot ball. You wonder if Gatland's sudden change of heart is like a personal ad in the lonely hearts column sent out to New Zealand Rugby. Coach looking for home comforts and a soulmate. Love me, I'm not one-dimensional, I want to come home.

The New Zealand Herald's Gregor Paul believes the omission of Peter O'Mahony could cost the Lions at the lineout.

That greater presence on the ground and over the ball will see the Lions, however, give up a valuable lineout resource in Peter O'Mahony who has been dropped out of the 23.

Maro Itoje has been promoted to start ahead of his club and country teammate George Kruis and that is presumably designed to shore up the lineout as well as to reward the 22 year-old for his strong efforts on tour so far.

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

See Also: Brian O'Driscoll Hammers Warren Gatland Over Lions Farce

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