PREVIEW: Highlanders v B&I Lions

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 08:39
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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The British and Irish Lions will be looking to score more tries when they face the Highlanders on Tuesday.

The Lions have only scored two tries in their three matches on tour so far. They failed to cross the whitewash in their 12-3 victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend.

"I have no doubt in my mind that this group of players will find its rhythm and once we do it will be happy days," B&I Lions wing Tommy Seymour said in an interview on the Lions website.

Seymour added: "I can't wait [for the match against the Highlanders], I am really looking forward to it.

"We have all come out here looking forward to playing, Gats [Lions head coach Warren Gatland] has been able to give everyone the starts as he explained, now it is coming round to second bites of the cherry and I am really looking forward to mine.

"What's clear is that we are putting ourselves in positions to score tries.

"We are building relationships with each other, we start to familiarise yourself with how players think and certain lines they like to run."

Seymour, who started against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, will be playing alongside Jack Nowell and Jared Payne in the back three against the Highlanders.

"We would be lying if we said we weren’t a little bit disappointed that we hadn’t crossed the whitewash a few more times," he added.

"It is only so long you want to go creating those opportunities and not finishing them off, you can only be pleased for so long about creating them. It is no good having them and not converting.

"But it's a lot easier to go finishing off those final passes than it is to go from creating nothing.

"We are doing a lot of work and will continue to do a lot of work on our communication and accuracy levels in those final moments and if we do we will try and get across the whitewash.

"I have no doubt in my mind that this group of players will find its rhythm and once we do it will be happy days.

"It can be a case of getting that first dot down, a simple run in or a great finish whatever it may be, and then it can be a tidal wave and they all come after that."

Seymour is also relishing his showdown with Highlanders and All Blacks wing Waisake Naholo.

"That’s the theme for this trip, there is a lot of talent in the back three over here and certainly Naholo fits right into that," he said.

"He is a fantastic player and a very tricky opponent but one we are looking forward to and these are the challenges both as a team and individually that we knew we were going to face and it's an exciting opportunity for myself and us as a backline to try to go out and hopefully get the better of them."

Players to watch:

For Highlanders: Centre Malakai Fekitoa will have something to prove after being left out of the three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions: Flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will also be wanting to put in a polished performance ahead of the Test series. Wing Waisake Naholo is a devastating ball runner when he is in form. In the pack, hooker Liam Coltman has been excellent in Super Rugby this season, while No.8 and captain Luke Whitelock puts in a lot of work during the 80 minutes.

For British and Irish Lions: Captain Sam Warburton has been under a lot of scrutiny lately and he will need a big performance against the Highlanders. Christiaan Stander seems to be the second-best No.8 on tour for the Lions behind Taulupe Faletau so far and the Irishman will be looking to make a step up in Dunedin. In the backline, scrumhalf Rhys Webb has a good eye for the gap, while his halfback partner Dan Biggar will also be looking for an improved performance after his last showing.

Head to head: Malakai Fekitoa will be hurting after being left out of the All Black squad and his showdown in the midfield with Jonathan Joseph is a mouth-watering one. Lima Sopoaga and Dan Biggar are both top-class flyhalves with an array of skills, while Tommy Seymour will have a tough time marking the big man Waisake Naholo.

Prediction: The British and Irish Lions are a bit more confident after their win over the Crusaders. They also seem to be developing an effective way of stopping New Zealand's exciting ball runners with their rush defence. It will be another bruising encounter with the Lions edging this one by eight points or less.

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock (captain), 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Jackson Hemopo, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Patrick Osborne.

British & Irish Lions: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 James Haskell, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rory Best, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Elliot Daly

Date: Tuesday, June 13
Venue: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Expected weather: Showers are expected around kick-off time with a temperature of around 5°C. There will also be a strong breeze.
Kick-off: 19.35 (08.35 UK & Ireland time; 07.35 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant referees: TBC
TMO: TBC

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Team P W D L Pts
B&I Lions 0 0 0 0 0
Australia 0 0 0 0 0
Barbarians 0 0 0 0 0
Force 0 0 0 0 0
Reds 0 0 0 0 0
Waratahs 0 0 0 0 0
Brumbies 0 0 0 0 0
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Blues 0 0 0 0 0
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Chiefs 0 0 0 0 0
NZ Barbarians 0 0 0 0 0
Maori All Blacks 0 0 0 0 0
New Zealand 0 0 0 0 0