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The final midweek match of the British & Irish Lions tour takes place against the Hurricanes at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Tuesday.
Victory over the Chiefs last week saw the tourists finally get a midweek win on the board and they will be keen to build on that success. However, they take on the reigning Super Rugby champions who are boosted by four players being released to them from the All Blacks squad.
Unlike the Chiefs, this Hurricanes line-up looks more like their team that runs out round after round. Only Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett are away with the Test squad so it’s a daunting prospect for the Lions coming away with a victory against this franchise.
The Hurricanes currently sit second in the New Zealand Conference after 11 wins from 14 this season. They’ve scored a competition high 85 tries, which is an average of six per game, so the Lions must be defensively aware of the threat they pose and it’ll be interesting to see if the Hurricanes persist with their tactic of snubbing kickable penalties in favour of going for the seven points in such a special match.
“We are under no illusions as to the challenge the British and Irish Lions will present and we want to put our best foot forward for what promises to be a memorable occasion,” said ‘Canes head coach Chris Boyd, who incredibly pits his wits against the Lions for a third time.
“It’s a fantastic event for our club, but also for the city of Wellington and the region, so hopefully the match will live up to its billing.”
Dropped by the All Blacks for the opening Test, this is a chance for wing Julian Savea to show the selectors what they are missing. The powerful finisher, who has 46 tries in 53 international appearances, lost his place to Rieko Ioane last week and will be keen to impress on Tuesday. The same goes for the trio also released from the squad for the game; Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape and Vaea Fifita.
It’s a similar situation for George North as he found himself left out of the 23 that took to the field at Eden Park on Saturday. Elliot Daly was preferred and after an impressive performance against New Zealand, he looks assured of keeping his place in the second Test. North though will want to make a statement, as will Courtney Lawes and CJ Stander in a late push to sneak into the 23.
While the Hurricanes’ back-line does catch the eye, Perenara and Barrett in the half-backs have been integral to them in 2017. If the visitors keep the game tight and similar to how they performed against the Chiefs then they should come out on top. Lions by five.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Brad Shields (c), 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, 22 Wes Goosen, 23 Cory Jane.
British & Irish Lions: 15 Jack Nowell, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 George North, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 James Haskell, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Cory Hill, 20 George Kruis, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Jared Payne.