The third and final British and Irish Lions test will be another physical, stop-start ‘slugfest’ similar to the second, according to former Ireland captain Niamh Briggs.
South Africa levelled the series with a big 27-9 victory over the Lions on Saturday in an extremely physical, ill-disciplined encounter.
While it was expected that there would be a number of citings from the match, only Kyle Sinckler was asked to attend a disciplinary hearing for biting, which he was subsequently cleared of.
One of the main detractors of the second test for the casual fans was the stop-start nature of the match, which resulted in the first half going over 63 minutes in total length.
However, with Warren Gatland naming his XV for the all-important deciding final test, there is hope that the final test might have some attractive, running rugby to look forward to.
Speaking on Tuesday’s Off The Ball, Briggs looked at the team selections and explains what she would have done differently.
“I would have probably had Josh Adams on the other wing and [Anthony] Watson on the right,” Briggs said.
“I maybe also would have looked at putting Liam Williams on the other wing and keeping Stuart Hogg.
“I know he had a really bad game, but I think the type of player that he is, he doesn’t have two of them in a row. He is also a leader.”
With the more dynamic and unpredictable bench that Gatland has selected, many might hope that the third test will be a more exciting affair, however Briggs does not believe that that will be the case.
“I don’t know if it is a case that with the likes of Sam Simmonds and Finn Russell on the bench that they are going to change the way that they play,” Briggs said.
“From the first test, I was sure when I saw Ali Price starting that they were going to move the ball and move it really quick. That wasn’t the case, they still kicked a huge amount.
“When you put Bundee [Aki] in there, you are putting him in there to be physical and carry; you are not putting him in there to be able to play ball, so I am not sure it is going to change too much.”
Where the Lions need to improve
While the Lions looked to be the better side for the first half of the second test, the Springboks looked like the world champions that they are in the second, outscoring the Lions 21-0 in the latter stages of the match.
Briggs discussed where she feels the Lions will need to be better if they are to clinch the series against South Africa.
“For the Lions this week, their lineout has to be better, and their scrum, they have to get a platform off of that,” Briggs said.
“For me, it is the big carries in the field, they have to try and hit the soft shoulder in some place or other.
“There were loads of situations in those big carries… there was a huge amount of space out in that width, but they never looked to use it.
“It is almost like a game of chess where you have to show them one picture and do another, and you have got to be able to do it on the run in no time.
“That is what this Lions series is, it is the best of the best and you are expected to be able to change things and move things.
“I just don’t know whether they have the ok to do that from their coaching ticket.”
Briggs suggested that the Springboks would not want to deviate too much from their winning formula, though, meaning that the third test is likely to be another slugfest akin to the second.
“I’d imagine it would be the exact same thing,” Briggs said. “If you are Jacques Nienaber and you are preparing your team, you are talking about not letting them gain any momentum or let them put any phases together.
“So, spoil everything as much as you can. For me though, it just takes the spirit of the game away a small bit.
“When it comes to something like a Lions series, they are so special, and I just think it has kind of lost its flair a small bit.
“I hope that it is not a stop-start [match], I hope that the off the ball stuff is going to be left behind, but it is very difficult to see how it won’t be.”
Catch every moment of the British and Irish Lions series on Off The Ball, with live commentary from the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara, Keith Wood, Alan Quinlan and more throughout the test series.
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