Five talking points ahead of Hurricanes v British and Irish Lions

Five talking points ahead of Hurricanes v British and Irish Lions

The British and Irish Lions play the final midweek game of their New Zealand tour on Tuesday when they face reigning Super Rugby champions the Hurricanes in Wellington.

We look at five talking points going into the game, and leading towards next Saturday's second Test against New Zealand.

Rival coaches' comments provide lively back-drop

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen reacted angrily to Lions opposite number Warren Gatland's demand that referees clamp down on New Zealand's "dangerous" targeting of scrum-half Conor Murray by phoning a radio station to call him "desperate". All Blacks boss Hansen called Radio Sport directly in a bizarre move to answer Gatland's call for greater protection of scrum-half Murray. Gatland was frustrated by what he felt were deliberate tactics from the All Blacks, claiming they were diving "blindly" at Murray's standing leg whenever he launched a box kick in Saturday's 30-15 defeat to New Zealand. It is an issue likely to rumble on throughout this week.

British and Irish Lion's boss Warren Gatland
British and Irish Lion's boss Warren Gatland

A final push for second test places

Liam Williams and Elliot Daly set the tone last week, starring in an impressive victory over the Chiefs and then securing first Test starting places as a result. And their achievement should inspire Tuesday's Lions team. Full-back Jack Nowell, wing George North and lock Courtney Lawes could be the players who make a statement to Lions head coach Warren Gatland this time round as the tourists look to end their midweek schedule with another victory and provide a squad boost ahead of the next All Blacks clash.

Hurricanes are capable of giving the Lions the hurry-up

The Lions have already lost two midweek fixtures on tour, being beaten by the Blues and Highlanders, and the Hurricanes are certainly capable of completing a hat-trick for New Zealand's Super Rugby teams. Jordie Barrett and Julian Savea both start after being released from All Blacks duty, while 2015 World Cup star Nehe Milner-Skudder is another player ready to test the Lions' defence. Wellington's Westpac Stadium is sold out for the first of two visits by the Lions in five days, and the crowd could be in for a thrilling encounter.

Hurricane's Brad Shields and boss John Plumtree
Hurricane's Brad Shields and boss John Plumtree

Lions fans will hope for a backlash

Not only did the Lions lose last weekend's first Test, they also found themselves heavily outgunned in the physicality stakes by a rampant New Zealand pack. The All Blacks' dominance undoubtedly left a physical and mental mark on the Lions, and Tuesday's line-up under the leadership of Ireland captain Rory Best can set about redressing matters by making a statement against the Hurricanes. It might not be a Test match, but the Lions can still go some way towards stating a case before Test series rivalry is resumed.

Five talking points ahead of Hurricanes v British and Irish Lions

Westpac stadium does not hold great Lions memories

The last time the Lions visited Wellington's "Cake Tin," as the stadium is nicknamed, they were baked to a cinder. It was the second Test against New Zealand 12 years ago, and the All Blacks were in rampant form, running out 48-18 winners. Fly-half Dan Carter scored 33 points, including two tries, while Tana Umaga, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Richie McCaw also touched down as the Lions were mauled beyond recognition. It gave New Zealand a series-clinching victory over the Clive Woodward-coached tourists.

- PA

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