British and Irish Lions Tour: Maori All Blacks v British and Irish Lions Preview

Betting-Preview-For-The Maori-All-Blacks-versus-the-British-And-Irish-Lions-Game

The British and Irish Lions will be looking to vanquish the ghosts of 2005 when they take on the Maori All Blacks at the Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday.

As we edge ever closer to the opening Test, the Lions are looking more and more like a ravaged bunched. Injuries are starting to take their toll with Stuart Hogg ruled out of the series and Owen Farrell now facing a race against time to make the opener at Eden Park next week. Poor results aren’t helping their cause either, with Tuesday's defeat to the Highlanders illustrating just how big a gulf in class there is between the midweek side and the men who are likely to start the first Test.

Lions’ coaches in the past have used the game against the Maori as a hit out for the majority of the Test side and it looks like Gatland has gone the same route announcing a side that looks very similar to the one being touted to take to the field against the All Blacks. It’s a massive gamble, however, as the Lions can ill-afford to lose any more first stringers to injury and the Maori will not take a step back in the collisions.

So will Gatland’s gamble pay off or will the Maori put a few more big names on the treatment table on their way to a historic victory?

Maori All Blacks v British and Irish Lions | Saturday 17 June | Eden Park | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Maori 17/10 | Draw 25/1 | Lions 5/10
Maori (+5.5) 9/10| Lions (-5.5) 9/10

Maori All Blacks
Bugger the Tests, this game is the one I’m looking forward to the most, as I think we will actually see a decent contest here opposed to the hidings I’m expecting the All Blacks to give the Lions over the next few weeks. This game is going to be your quintessential clash of styles with the Maoris sure to employ a ball-in-hand approach and their opponents likely to put in more bombs than the American Air Force.

The Maori backline is frighteningly good with All Blacks Rieko Ioane, Damien McKenzie, Charlie Ngati, Nehe Milner-Skudder and Tawera Kerr-Barlow all handed starts. This backline will be absolutely lethal and we can expect to see them score some magical tries this Saturday.

The Maori forward pack is nowhere near as strong as the back division so we can expect to see the Lions dominate the set piece, leaving the hosts to feed off scraps. That may not be too big an issue for the Maori though as their back row of Akira Ioane, Elliot Dixon and Liam Messam are more than capable of turning the breakdown into a bun fight and dining out on stolen ball.

British and Irish Lions
Like I alluded to in the Maori segment, the Lions are likely to kick a lot of ball this Saturday. If this territorial ploy is to succeed, they are going to need their rush defence to be on point. This system worked a treat against the Crusaders last week but was slightly exposed by the Highlanders, who used their big men out wide and some smart kicks in behind to negate the Lions’ defensive structure.

Gatland has made some interesting selections for this one, bringing Ben Teo’o into the centre to partner the Lions most lethal player on tour thus far, Jonathon Josephs. Teo’o may actually have a much larger role on tour than initially planned with Farrell, who was likely to get the 12 role for the Tests, now an injury doubt.

The forward pack looks very similar to the one I would envisage Gatland fielding for the first Test, with Mako Vunipoala at loosehead, Jamie George at hooker and Tadhg Furlong at tight head. There’s an all Saracens second row with Maro Itoje linking up with George Kruis, while the back row sees Ireland’s Sean O’Brien and Peter o’Mahony partner Welshman Taulupe Faletau.

Verdict: Maori All Blacks 17/10
If the Maori forwards can front up, then they should have this one in the bag, as there is no chance the Lions will be able to keep the likes of Rieko Ioane quiet. My money is the big men doing just this and the Maori recording another victory over the Lions.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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