Keys to the door of No. 10: As Warren Gatland names his lineup for the Lions’ decisive third test against South Africa, will Warren Gatland stay with Dan Biggar’s shoe or for the Scottish nun’s X Factor -conformist conductor Finn Russell go?
- Warren Gatland to reveal his Lions lineup for the decisive third Test today
- Gatland will definitely consider revamping his team’s creative center
- Dan Biggar hopes to keep his place, but Finn Russell presents another option
Warren Gatland will be naming his Lions lineup for the decisive third Test against South Africa on Saturday and changes are inevitable.
The head coach will certainly consider revamping his team’s creative center. Last weekend’s 27-9 loss to the Springboks was a crushing blow to the tourists, who were optimistic about sealing a historic win in the series.
The Lions did not score a point after the break and barely threatened to defend the opponents, which led to criticism of a cautious game plan.
Dan Biggar hopes to keep his place on the fly-half when the Lions lineup is announced Tuesday
While the coaches were finalizing their roster, it was expected that a back-line overhaul was imminent. While Liam Williams and Josh Adams are considered the top contenders for inclusion in the starting XV, there will be – as always – a lot of focus on the 10-12 axis.
Dan Biggar hopes to keep his place at fly-half, but Owen Farrell will certainly be considered and Finn Russell’s return to fitness offers another X-factor option for matchday 23.
James Hook, former Wales and Lions playmaker, reviewed the tricky comparison, saying: “Dan Biggar takes the ball to the line for Northampton and he’s done that before for Wales, but we didn’t see that last weekend.
“He probably plays to orders by kicking a lot more. I think he only made three passes the entire game, which is ridiculous for an international outside half.
Coach Warren Gatland will definitely consider revamping his team’s creative center
“You should stay with Dan, but I’d have Owen Farrell next to him at 12 noon and Robbie Henshaw outside the center. They need more breadth in their attack – that’s the only chance for success for the Lions. They need to take a few more chances and put South Africa’s defenses to the test.
“If Finn Russell is fully fit, he deserves a crack off the couch. If the Lions are in a similar situation to Saturday – after 60 minutes of chasing the game – someone like Russell would be great to give the Lions a different kind of attacking threat.”
Russell has been out of action for several weeks due to injury and former England fly-half Toby Flood believes choosing him is too risky.
He said: ‘It’s too big a shift to change the whole structure and philosophy in two training days. We’ve been watching the Lions under Warren Gatland for a number of years – they are very structured and very formal. I don’t think they will switch to a razzmatazz game. I think he’ll stay with Dan Biggar and get Owen Farrell off the bench.
“The No 10 is an integral part of Gatland’s systems. You can’t put Finn Russell in because he hasn’t played rugby in four weeks and you don’t know if his Achilles tendon will last.
“It wasn’t the game plan that cost the Lions, it was the accuracy of it. They need to improve their ability to get the ball out of the air – fast – if they want to beat South Africa.”
Scotland’s maverick Finn Russell is another X-factor option for matchday 23
Gatland took Russell, Scotland’s maverick conductor, into his team for Johnny Sexton, but whether he would throw him in this high-stakes test is another matter. Russell is capable of groundbreaking genius and many Lions fans are eager to see him unleashed against the Boks.
His Racing 92 attack coach Mike Prendergast said: “I texted Finn after the second test that I hoped he would play the decider. He said he is eager to go and would gladly do so.
“I’ve seen in Paris that when he’s been injured or suspended and because of his natural aptitude for the ball, he has the ability to come back and you wouldn’t know he was out. He is so comfortable on the ball.
“If you look at last week’s game, you need creativity against a South African team that plays like that. Finn is the best late decider on the line I’ve come across. That and his short kick game could be crucial against a rock-solid defense. There is probably no better man in world rugby in those two things.
“The Lions need someone to unlock the Bok defense. The 10 that can do that is Finn. He brings that unexpected magic.’
Further Lions changes are expected in advance, with Jamie George and Taulupe Faletau in contention to start, although the eligibility of Wales mainstay Wyn Jones remains unclear.