PREVIEW: New Zealand v B&I Lions
Already one down in the three-Test series, defeat in Wellington would condemn the Lions to yet another failure – the 11th in 12 visits to New Zealand.
Lions coach Warren Gatland and the All Blacks' Steve Hansen say they are both expecting that a huge collision at the breakdown will prove decisive.
"There's going to be a tremendous battle there because they'll be a little wounded from last time out and they'll want to prove a point there," Hansen said.
Both men have spent the week crystal-ball gazing on how the game will play out.
Will the Lions again employ the line-speed plan that has worked so well for them, except in the first Test? Or will they develop the running game that proved productive the times they used it a week ago?
And will the All Blacks return to the close-quarter attacks, directed by No.9 Aaron Smith, that worked so well when they cleaned up 30-15 in Auckland?
"We have to make sure we stop that," Gatland said.
"We worked pretty hard on that this week. But the All Blacks will probably come with a different plan. They may throw the ball around, they may kick the ball more.
We have got to be ready for the changes."
Hansen, having out-thought the Lions' first Test tactics, is now trying to fathom what the tourists will bring this time around.
"He [Gatland] is going to second-guess what we did. Are we going to play off nine again? Then we have to second-guess, if we play off nine, is he going to shut that door? If they shut the door, what other door have they just opened?" Hansen said.
After the All Blacks bullied the Lions in the forwards last week, Gatland has dropped lock George Kruis with Maro Itoje starting in the second row and recalled tour captain Sam Warburton to replace Peter O'Mahony on the blindside flank.
Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell wear 10 and 12 to have two playmakers running the backline which, as an attacking venture, looks promising.
But defensively, Farrell gives away 14 kilos to Sonny Bill Williams, the one All Black of whom Gatland said: "It will be important we shut him down."
The All Blacks' two injury-forced changes make little difference to the balance of the side, with Waisake Naholo going onto the right wing for Israel Dagg, who moves to fullback and replaces the concussion-troubled Ben Smith.
Anton Lienert-Brown takes the place of Ryan Crotty (hamstring) in midfield with the untested Ngani Laumape on the bench.
With the breakdown a key area, the All Blacks have retained the same forwards that controlled the first Test, while Gatland wants more from his reorganised pack the second time around.
"As I have spoken all along, we need to be more physical up front. The players are aware of that and we have spoken about that as a group," the New Zealander said.
Hansen was giving nothing away about how the All Blacks would contend with a more fired-up Lions pack.
"They're sitting there thinking, 'Will they do the same thing as last week?'
"I guess we'll have to wait and see what we all do but it's about reacting and adapting to that at the moment," he said.
"We're determined to win all the time. I'm sure that'll definitely be the mental state they're in. They'll be determined to win.
"Losing hurts, it sucks, it's not a great idea."
Players to watch:
For New Zealand: The addition of Waisake Naholo gives the All Blacks some extra power in the backline. On the other wing, Rieko Ioane has proven over the last few weeks how deadly he is when in open space. In the pack, No.8 and captain Kieran Read gives a 110 percent for his team in every game and he is an inspirational leader for the All Blacks. Flank Sam Cane disrupted a few plays at the breakdown against the B&I Lions in the first Test and he will be looking to do the same this weekend.
For British and Irish Lions: Owen Farrell moves from flyhalf to inside centre and his combination with Jonathan Sexton in that inside channel will be keenly observed. Scrumhalf Conor Murray also has a key role to play when it comes to decision making. In the pack, captain Sam Warburton has not had the best tour so far and will have a lot to prove. In the second row, Maro Itoje is a very vocal and effective player in his position.
Head to head: Sonny Bill Williams and Owen Farrell are two very different players in that inside centre position, while Jonathan Sexton will look to dominate play against Beauden Barrett in the flyhalf channel. Lock Maro Itoje gets an opportunity in the starting side and he will be up against two of the best lock in the world in the form of Samuel Whitelock and Brodie Retallick.
Most recent results:
2017: New Zealand won 30-15, Auckland
2005: New Zealand won 38-19, Auckland
2005: New Zealand won 48-18, Wellington
2005: New Zealand won 21-3, Christchurch
1993: New Zealand won 30-13, Auckland
1993: B&I Lions won 20-7, Wellington
1993: New Zealand won 20-18, Christchurch
1983: New Zealand won 38-6, Auckland
1983: New Zealand won 15-8, Dunedin
1983: New Zealand won 9-0, Wellington
1983: New Zealand won 16-12, Christchurch
Prediction: The British and Irish Lions will probably have a bit more tricks up their sleeves for the clash, but the All Blacks will still be too good on the day. Expect New Zealand to wrap up the series with a win, by 12 points at least.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ngani Laumape.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (captain), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Christiaan Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell.
Date: Saturday, July 1
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19.35 (08.35 UK time; 07.35 GMT)
Expected weather: Showers are expected during the match with strong gusts of wind. The temperature will be around 11°C
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Agence France-Presse & @rugby365com