Crusaders to Crush Lions?
The Crusaders come into this game with a 100% record in the Super 18. The Lions scraped a win against the Provincial Barbarians (13-7) before losing against the Auckland Blues to a 74th minute try 22 - 16. This does not appear to bode well when now facing the team currently topping the Super 18 league table.
The Crusaders are expected to field 8 All Blacks in their team on Saturday. Six of the eight All Blacks starting for the Crusaders are in the forward pack.
All Black regulars Owen Franks and Sam Whitelock are part of an all-international tight five, while experienced full back Israel Dagg also starts.
Gatland promised that the whole squad would get a run out in the first 3 games and he has stood by his word. Flanker Sean O’Brien, scrum half Conor Murray, centre Jonathan Davies and wing George North all make their first appearances of the tour.
9 of the starting 15 have experience of playing for the Lions in 2013. They cannot afford another defeat so early on into the tour.
The Kiwi team are anticipating a lot of the ball being in the air. Israel Dagg was quoted as saying “Northern hemisphere teams, they love a kick. So we will be preparing ourselves to have an aerial battle. We sent a Whatsapp message last night saying that we are going to prepare for those high balls.”
This may mean a less expansive game than the Crusaders are used to but I still think they will have too much experience and knowledge for the Lions.
As already shown by the Blues Super Rugby sides are not far from Test level. The Lions I feel are still scratching around for form and for their best team.
I am going to be tipping a Crusaders victory. On the handicap market -2 points, generally available at EVEN money.
CRUSADERS -2 pts EVENS