Eddie O'Sullivan rates the Irish Lions' performances in the Highlanders loss

Ex-Ireland head coach speaks to Off The Ball about his conclusions

BY Raf Diallo 21:37 Tuesday 13 June 2017, 21:37 13 Jun 2017

Lions' Iain Henderson tackled by Kayne Hammington of the Highlanders ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Four games into the 2017 tour of New Zealand and the British and Irish Lions have tasted defeat twice.

The latest loss came on Tuesday morning as Warren Gatland's side slipped to defeat in a thrilling 23-22 result against Highlanders in Dunedin.

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O'Sullivan ran the rule over the five Irish players involved from the start as he joined Off The Ball on Tuesday night.

You can listen to the full chat on the podcast player and you can find Rugby on Off The Ball on iTunes right here.

Jared Payne

Lions' Jared Payne ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

"I thought Jared Payne struggled a wee bit. He just didn't have a solid game. He did some good things but he had some bad moments as well," said O'Sullivan of the versatile Ireland back who started at No 15.

He added that some of Payne's errors during the game are the type of things that the coaches will take note of in regards to their selections for the big games and test series against the All Blacks.

"I just think now he's probably ruled himself out at full back. Whether he can get into the centre is very doubtful," said O'Sullivan.

"It's probably made it difficult to pick him for the first test I think." 

 Robbie Henshaw

"I thought Henshaw did well. He was looking for an obstruction on the first Highlanders try but I think he took himself out of the game the way he ran up line," said O'Sullivan.

"But I think he had a good solid game. I think he's in with a shout in the middle of the field. It's a possibility he could get in there if [Gatland] doesn't go with Te'o." 

Rory Best 

"I thought Rory Best did well," the Cork man said of the Ireland captain.

"Typical Rory Best. Great work rate and I think his line-out's been good. When that line-out went astray against the Blues, everyone thought 'Here we go again' but it didn't have anything to do with him. It was Kyle Sinckler who actually missed the lift, so Rory's been very solid.

"Having said that, I think Jamie George will probably get the nod at hooker I think. I think Gatland brought him on the tour for that reason. He brought him ahead of the England captain. But I think Rory will be there or thereabouts."


Lions' James Haskell and CJ Stander leave the field after the game ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

CJ Stander

O'Sullivan said: "CJ Stander had a good solid game again but I don't think he's the kind of guy who's going to really break into the back row.

"I think Toby Faletau is going to be the No 8 and I think [Sam] Warburton is going to be in there and I think after that, it's either Sean O'Brien, who would be the favourite, or possibly Peter O'Mahony because of his line-out prowess." 

Iain Henderson 

"I really think Henderson hasn't really hit the straps yet. We associate Henderson with quick feet, finding soft shoulders and getting behind defenders. He just hasn't hit the straps yet," said O'Sullivan of the versatile Ulster second row.

"He had a workman like game but if you're playing the All Blacks, you're going to be looking for guys who can change the dynamics of the game, who can find a soft shoulder. Someone like Faletau, every time he gets the ball he's getting in behind - not fully, they're not line breaks - but the ruck is two metres behind the contact area for the defence and they have to regroup. Henderson can do that. He's got those feet. For a big guy, he's got very quick and I suppose maybe there's an element there that he's starting in the second row. I'm not sure he's a top end second row. I think he's a top end back row."  


As for those who are almost certainly in line to start against the All Blacks, O'Sullivan pinpoints scrum half Conor Murray and front row Tadhg Furlong, while Robbie Henshaw, Rory Best and one of Sean O'Brien or Peter O'Mahony have an outside chance.


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