Lions 2017: NZ Provincial Barbarians v Lions prediction

The Lions all starts here! After a year of building excitement over the Lions’ four-yearly quest to beat the best of the southern hemisphere, it kicks off this Saturday against a New Zealand Provincial Barbarians side.

Unless you are an avid fan of New Zealand rugby, there are unlikely to be many names you recognise on the Barbarians team sheet – bar, of course, Bryn Gatland, the Lions coach’s son. This is by far the weakest team the Lions will face and given it is also a scratch side, they won’t even have the familiarity with each other club sides usually enjoy when facing an all-star team.

Meanwhile the Lions team is interesting. Gatland has obviously been forced on some of his selections – players from Exeter, Wasps, Scarlets, Munster and Northampton were not considered due to their involvement in the respective league finals and Champions Cup play-offs, while Rhys Webb has been nursing a slight injury.

Gatland has also indicated in an interview with The Telegraph that he will be keeping his test selection cards close to his chest until closer to the first game against the All Blacks, saying: ‘It’s obvious that in the first five games you’re not going to show everything, you’re not going to show your hand.’

So don’t read too much into some of his choices. But it is still fun to read a little bit!

Sexton ahead of Farrell at 10 and Te’o at 12 is intriguing – we have Gatland’s usual ploy of power at 12 when many of us were hoping to see the two flyhalves used in tandem – but this game is likely being used as a chance for the Irish flyhalf to get some game time with the English backs he has picked outside him (Te’o, Joseph and Watson).

What will show more about Gatland’s intentions is when and where he brings Farrell on – at 10 or 12.

In the forwards, Kyle Sinckler (undoubtedly the biggest bolter in the squad) makes his first ever international start. The first player to make his starting debut for the Lions? He will be revved up and want to prove himself as more than a ‘finisher’. His Harlequins colleague, Joe Marler, is starting at loosehead so that should give him a hand.

Welsh duo Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton are also in need of some game time so that will be some of the thinking behind their starting place. The Saracens, Maro Itoje and George Kruis, have also had a heavier work load recently with that hugely attritional Champions Cup final against Clermont understandably affecting their performance against Exeter. This will likely have influenced Gatland’s decision to partner Jones with Iain Henderson.

Expect to see the full bench used, and early on, as the Lions coaches will want to see as many players as possible in action.

So an interesting team, with plenty to prove, and maybe an early glimmer as to Gatland’s test-team thinking to be found in how he uses his substitutions. The Lions will want to kick off with a strong victory. Whatever people say about the tests being the only matches that count, and a couple of early losses would not matter, we all know winning breeds confidence and a loss against the weakest team they face would be a huge shock.

I am predicting a scrappy match as both teams look to find some rhythm, but in the end a comfortable victory for the 2017 Lions.

My prediction: Lions by 25

Average Superbru prediction: Lions by 11.08

What is your prediction for the match?

By Henry Ker

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15 Replies to “Lions 2017: NZ Provincial Barbarians v Lions prediction”

  1. Whether Gatland’s resting guys or not, it still looks a decent side to me & will give people a chance to impress, the modest opposition notwithstanding. If some of the Lions are tired from their previous encounters, then there’ll be precious little let up from here on in, so they’ll have to shape up regardless. Besides, how long do fit, young people need to recover? A week? Whatever it is, it’ll have to be enough. And I just hope they took their ‘No jet lag’ pills.

  2. Anyone thinking this is going to be a turkey shoot might want to get on YouTube and look at the NZ Barbarians highlight reels. The game against NZ Maori is particularly impressive.

    1. Thanks for that.

      However, it was a decidedly better BaaBaas team vs the Maoris than the one the Lions will face.

      Also, I know they are both scratch sides, but even so, defense was pretty porous from both teams. I can’t imagine the Lions will make it quite so easy for the BaaBaa’s attack. And for that matter nor will the Maori make it so easy for the Lions attack!

      A pretty amazing offload in there though

  3. My biggest fear is injuries. the Baabaas team are all players on fringes of super rugby looking to make a name for themselves. I can see them using this as an advert for how hard they can tackle the best from NH. If we come through with 23 fit players I’ll be happy!

    1. Saw yr fears confirmed on the prev Lions SA tour in 09 in a TV doc last night. If it hadn’t been for a swathe of injuries & some dumb errors like O’Gara’s hitting the Saffa in the air @ Monge’s spilling the pill over the line, it could have been quite different. That & the refs of course, no favours there either. Ask Vickery. However, as for using this match ‘as an advert for how hard they can tackle the best from NH’, seems a bit biased. All teams play & tackle hard, don’t they? And playing NZ teams is pretty hard anyway from what I can glean from opponents. It’s part of the way Kiwis play the game.

  4. Yep – 60+; only the terrible (apparently) Whangarei weather will stop it. There’s a reason these players are ‘fringe’ in a competition where if you’re good enough you’re old enough – I don’t mean to sound so disparaging to the opposition who of will be decent and have a couple of future stars. My main hope is that the lions play to their strengths and build the game on a powerful set piece (milking it for all it’s worth) and don’t suddenly try to become a Super Rugby team

    1. Sep. We’ll see about yr score, but the game is a simple one. When you’ve got the pill, you’ve gotta score points, when you haven’t, you’ve gotta stop the opposition from doing so. This game is a mild 1st course, but the Lions can use it to lay down a mark of intent down. If they just ‘play to their strengths’, i.e. the set piece, they surely risk limiting themselves. Do you think NZ won 2 WC’s by NOT having a strong enough set piece? The Lions need to expand their game & also do the unexpected, otherwise they’ll be predictable & likely play into the AB’s hands. And BTW, yr point about ‘if you’re good enough you’re old enough’, also applies to the AB’s. You might just see guys like Jordie Barrett, Akira & Reiko Ioane or Damian McKenzie chucked into their mix as well.

  5. I’d be very worried for the Lions if we only win by 25. These are stone cold amateurs. Hiding to nothing here. Seriously it should be 50+. The gap between these guys and Super Rugby is immense. The Super Rugby games will be very hard fought.

  6. Don – I share your sentiments and your valid point about Reiko et al supports my point about these players not yet being ‘good enough’.
    At what point does the lions doing the unexpected become expected? Everyone knew what England’s RWC winning team were going to do and they couldn’t stop it (fair enough it had exceptional individuals and “Orcs” in the pack – who said that?) and it’s no surprise that England’s ‘relative’ demise in the 10 years prior to EJ correlated with their pack losing its fearsome edge and domination. The All Blacks have/had an outstanding pack no doubt but they evolved the roles and traits of a pack which were years ahead of the rest and no other nation were at enough to stop them. One issue with this tour is that, with the exception of the first game, the team/personnel don’t have any ‘gimmes’ to play themselves in – depending on opposition personnel each game could be akin to a test match in terms of intensity.

  7. Pretty good huh? Lions by 6-7 points

    Oh dear.

    Altogether terribly disappointing and worrying (how can it not be?). Jet lag? complacency? No phase play, turnstile tackling and extremely poor individual skills.

    Roll on Wednesday

  8. Not happy with the reaction after the game by Warburton and the pundits.That was desperately poor and an unacceptable performance-pity the reaction was let’s move on.I am not sure we are capable of great improvement and we are likely to be outclassed by the provinces and go into the tests feeling inferior

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