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The New Zealand Media Reaction To The Lions Test Team

The New Zealand Media Reaction To The Lions Test Team
By PJ Browne
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Warren Gatland surprised many on Wednesday evening when he named his Lions team for the first Test against New Zealand this weekend.

Leigh Halfpenny and George North, the former seen as the safe option at fullback and the latter an out-of-form but still considerable physical presence on the wing, were both viewed as certainties. Neither made the starting XV with North completely omitted from the matchday 23.


Instead, Liam Williams was named at fullback and the elusive, big-booted Elliot Daly on the wing.

Liam Napier, writing for Stuff.co.nz, said that Gatland has shown he is able to make the hard decisions. However, he believes the Lions coach could have gone one further in selecting CJ Stander on the bench ahead of Warburton.

Once again Gatland has shown he is prepared to make the hard decisions, just as he did four years ago with Brian O'Driscoll, by leaving tour captain Warburton out of the starting side. Sean O'Brien's destructive abilities simply could not be overlooked but it could be argued Gatland has not gone far enough here, with a strong case for CJ Stander's inclusion over Warburton on the bench.

Mark Reason, also for Stuff.co.nz in an article titled 'Gatland Gambles on Novices', calls how Peter O'Mahony the best blindside in the world. However, he does call into question one aspect of the Munster man's leadership credentials: his ability to speak with the referee.

But it is the choice of Peter O'Mahony as captain which is the most shocking part of Gatland's selection. No-one had suggested the Munsterman as a candidate to captain the Lions when the tour was first being planned. Many did not even have him in the squad to come to New Zealand although that omission was a serious mistake. O'Mahony is a magnificent player, arguably the best No 6 in the world right now.

But the worry lies in O'Mahony's ability to communicate with referee Jaco Peyper.

Kieran Read will bring pressure on the officials. So will Sam Whitelock and Sam Cane and Jerome Kaino and Ben Smith and all the other captains in the All Blacks side. Aaron Smith won't stop chirping. The crowd will roar with indignation.

These are the moments that will test O'Mahony.

The New Zealand Herald's Gregor Paul believes that 'form and pragmatism won out' in Gatland's selection.

The option of fielding Owen Farrell at 12 with Johnny Sexton has been resisted.

At least it has been rejected as the place to start. With Sexton on the bench, that remains an option to consider later in the game - a way perhaps for the Lions to either generate width to their attacking game by having two decision-makers and distributors.

Or a way to increase the aerial bombardment. Either way, it's a trick up Gatland's sleeve with the bruising Ben Te'o asked to charge up the guts and see if he can get any change out of Sonny Bill Williams.


See Also: The British Media Reaction To Peter O'Mahony Being Named Lions Captain

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