Blues vs British & Irish Lions

Best Bet 1: British & Irish Lions -5.5 @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2: British & Irish Lions 2nd Half Handicap -3.5 @ $1.87 – Sportsbet

BLUES ($2.75) VS BRITISH & IRISH LIONS ($1.45)

Eden Park, the spiritual home of rugby, will see the Blues host the British & Irish Lions on the second stop of their 10-match New Zealand tour. The match kicks-off at 5pm local time (7pm EST). The Lions had a huge scare in Whangarei on Saturday, only managing to defeat the second-division Barbarians by a score of 13 – 7. This will be the Lions first match against any of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises, with matches against the Crusaders, Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes to follow.

Prediction:

The British and Irish Lions opened their tour with a win, but their performance over a spirited Barbarians line-up has been described by their large media contingent as ‘sluggish’ and showing ‘unimaginable levels of mediocrity’. It is understandable that they didn’t hit their strides having only landed in New Zealand on Wednesday, but with the amount of class and experience in their line-up, they should never have been challenged on the scoreboard or in a position to lose the match. To be fair, they were held up on four occasions, but several their players were shown up by their less fancied Barbarians, including Bryn Gatland, Lions coach Warren’s son.

Looking ahead to this match up, the Lions will be given an even sterner challenge. Although the Blues look likely to finish wooden-spooners in the New Zealand Super Rugby Conference, Tana Umaga’s troops will be more than capable of causing an upset. The match-day squad selected includes nine players with All Blacks experience and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few of them line-up against the visitors in the first Test match. The pack is strong, but I expect the Lions to target the locals at line-out time with the two young locks of Scott Scrafton and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti selected in the second row. The back row of Akira Ioane, Blake Gibson and Steven Luatua will have their hands full all evening, but have enough physicality amongst them to rock the Lions playing their first game of the tour. Augustine Pulu will pose problems around the breakdown with his sniping runs and swift service and this will undoubtedly be flyhalf Stephen Perofeta’s biggest game, with the regular stand-off, Piers Francis, being summonsed to Argentina to play for England. Sonny Bill Williams is questionable to play and given the All Blacks injury crisis at present, I wouldn’t be surprised if Steve Hansen puts in a phone call to hold him back on Wednesday.

Looking at Warren Gatland’s second team of the tour, I expect a lot of these players to line up in the first Test match in three weeks time. The front row is comprised of Jack McGrath (Ireland), Ken Owens (Wales) and Dan Cole (England). Maro Itoje, the youngest Lion on tour and potentially the most influential, starts at lock alongside English teammate, Courtney Lawes. James Haskell (England), Justin Tipuric (Wales) and the South African-born CJ Stander form the back row. Keep an eye on Tipuric because he is exceptional at the breakdown and had a 100% success rate during the European competition this season. The backline features several International combinations with the halves featuring Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar of Wales, the centres are Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw and Jarred Payne, with England’s Elliot Daly and Jack Nowell selected on the wings. The sharpshooter, Leigh Halfpenny has been selected at fullback and he may still have memories of missing the 80th minute decider against France at the RWC 2011 in New Zealand, on this very ground.

I imagine the first thing Warren Gatland would’ve said to his troops after last weekend’s match was, ‘Welcome to New Zealand’. As many teams have found out and ultimately been scarred from, nothing comes easy and you have to work for every inch and accolade. The Blues have the benefit having played together all season, but the Lions will now be acclimatised to the weather and the time zone, so jet lag shouldn’t be a factor. The weather forecast suggests that there is little chance of rain, which should make for some fascinating viewing. I expect the Blues to push the Lions hard in the first half, but the visitors bench is going to be the strongest for most of the tour and they should be able to capitalise on the mismatches. Once they find their groove, I expect them to run in a few late tries clearing the line and the second half handicap.

Predicted result:  British & Irish Lions to win @ $1.45 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: British & Irish Lions -5.5 @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2: British & Irish Lions 2nd Half Handicap -3.5 @ $1.87 – Sportsbet

Author

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Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 19 years and has expert knowledge on the game freely committing to over 500 viewing hours a year. Having played with and against some current Super Rugby players and International superstars, he understands the game, the players and the laws inside out. Having been born in South Africa, spent time in New Zealand and currently living in Australia, Glenn lives and breathes rugby. With so many different tournaments happening around the world simultaneously and the addition of Rugby Sevens to the Olympic program, there are always plenty of healthy betting options available. An obsession, a passion, call it what you will, Glenn enjoys sharing his insight, opinions and predictions with anyone who wants to listen.

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