Five talking points ahead of the third Lions Test against the All Blacks

Five talking points ahead of the third Lions Test against the All Blacks

The British and Irish Lions must win Saturday's third Test in Auckland to claim a first series victory over world champions New Zealand since 1971.

Here, we identify some of the key talking points heading in to what is certain to be a high-octane occasion.

CAN THE LIONS GO TO ANOTHER LEVEL?

They will need to, otherwise it could be difficult for them. New Zealand have not lost successive home Tests since 1998, and they will be thirsting to avenge last Saturday's defeat in Wellington when they played for 55 minutes with 14 men after Sonny Bill Williams was sent off. The Lions were far more physically intense than they had been in Auckland seven days earlier, but their biggest challenge yet awaits. Lions head coach Warren Gatland said his players had "poked the bear" with their Wellington win. They now have to silence the inevitable roar.

Five talking points ahead of the third Lions Test against the All Blacks

HOW WILL NEW ZEALAND RESPOND IN ADVERSITY?

There is no doubt that the All Blacks have got it all to do. They face the Lions a final time on tour without three players - Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty and Williams - who started the series just 13 days ago, while the Wellington defeat delivered a first loss on home soil since South Africa beat them in Hamilton eight years ago. Many people feel it is unthinkable they will lose again, but there is no doubt the Lions rattled them in the rain last Saturday. Flanker Jerome Kaino has likened the decider to a World Cup final, which gives an idea of exactly how the All Blacks are approaching it.

HOW BIG A FACTOR IS EDEN PARK?

It cannot be discounted. New Zealand have never lost there in rugby union's professional era, reeling off a 39-match unbeaten run since France beat them 23-20 in 1994. The Lions' record at Eden Park is dismal, losing nine, winning one and drawing one of the Tests played there, while the All Blacks have scored 30 points or more in each of the last four matches they have hosted against Britain and Ireland's finest at a venue where they also won the 2011 World Cup final. Ultimately, it is just another stadium and just another pitch, but is a record that cannot be ignored.

WILL THE LIONS KEEP THEIR DISCIPLINE?

New Zealand began the second Test with a chronic show of indiscipline, seeing Williams red-carded for a shoulder charge into the head of Lions wing Anthony Watson. But it was a totally different story during the third quarter as the 14-man All Blacks dominated. At one stage, the Lions conceded five kickable penalties to New Zealand fly-half Beauden Barrett during a 15-minute spell, and had prop Mako Vunipola sin-binned following a reckless challenge on Barrett.

Five talking points ahead of the third Lions Test against the All Blacks

Not for the first time on tour, the Lions coughed up a double-figure penalty count, with any repeat likely to haunt them this weekend. The tourists have to be water-tight.

HOW WILL REFEREE ROMAIN POITE COPE WITH THE OCCASION?

Frenchman Poite is respected as one of world rugby's leading officials, and he has enjoyed an interesting watching brief as an assistant referee in the first two Tests. His career portfolio contains 11 Six Nations Tests and five Rugby Championship encounters, while he controlled the Lions' Test series decider in Australia four years ago, when the Lions romped home 41-16. Interestingly, the 41-year-old from Rochefort has refereed the All Blacks nine times - and they have never lost. Poite is renowned for his composure under pressure, and there will be no bigger test of that than on Saturday.

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