New Zealand Provincial Barbarians v British & Irish Lions Preview

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Our in-house rugby scribe previews the British and Irish Lions first assignment; A Saturday date with the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. 

British and Irish Lions, who only touched down on New Zealand shores this past Wednesday, face an unknown quantity first up in the form of the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. In the ultimate twist of irony, Warren Gatland’s side will take on a team that features the Lions’ mentor’s own son.

So which of the Gatland tribe will be grinning come the conclusion of Saturday’s game? Let’s see if we can find out.

New Zealand Provincial Barbarians v British & Irish Lions | Saturday 3 June | Toll Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Provincial Barbarians 12/1 | Draw 33/1 | Lions 1/50
Handicap
Provincial Barbarians (+33.5 ) 9/10 | Lions (-33.5) 9/10

Provincial Barbarians
Those red Lions jerseys will be like a rag to a bull for this New Zealand Provincial Barbarians side, with this game likely to be the pinnacle of their playing careers. As such, we can expect a gutsy display from this rag bag ensemble of journeymen and young guns.

I have to be completely honest here and admit I have only seen a handful of this representative side in action. Bryn Gatland is probably the most well-known name in this squad, with the 22-year-old having turned out for the Blues in this season's Super Rugby tournament. Another man who might ring a bell deep in rugby fans' subconsciouses is centre Dwayne Sweeney. The veteran back represented the Chief in Super Rugby during the mid-2000’s.

So what can we expect from this rag-tag outfit on Saturday? We’ll they’ve promised to give the ball some air and they won’t take a step backwards when it comes to contact. They will likely target the Lions midfield off first phase ball and then look to stretch the play from there.

Lions
So, Warren Gatland’s first team announcement for the tour has seen a few surprise selections with young prop Kyle Sinckler getting a crack in the starting XV. He’s not the only English youngster to be handed a first cap with centre Ben Te’o also set to start the opener. This is by no means an inexperienced Lions outfit, however, with veterans such as Sam Warburton, Greig Laidlaw, Alun Wyn Jones and Iain Henderson all set to start.

This Lions squad should feel right at home this Saturday as the local weather bureau is predicting rainfall during the 80-minutes. This would be a continuation of the weather Wangara has experienced this week, meaning the players will be confronted with a rather soft pitch.

With conditions underfoot bordering on the treacherous, what sort of game plan will the Lions implement? Well, the logical assumption would be that will play to their strengths and look to use that giant forward pack of their’s to dominate proceedings. If this tactic reaps dividends and the Lions build up a big lead by half-time, then we may see them look to cut lose.

Verdict:  Lions (-33.5) 9/10
The first half will be tight, but I can see the Lions dominating the second stanza courtesy of that mammoth pack of theirs. Get on the minus with confidence.

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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