Published: Sun, June 11, 2017
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Gatland, and others, in contention for ABs job in 2020 - Tew

Gatland, and others, in contention for ABs job in 2020 - Tew

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland has revealed that skipper Sam Warburton will likely be given a chance to prove his fitness when playing a part against Highlanders on Tuesday.

The British and Irish Lions hit got back to winning ways with a gutsy victory over the previously unbeaten Crusaders thanks to the reliable goalkicking of Owen Farrell, and ensured that any talk of an ill-fated tour of New Zealand can be put to bed by triumphing in what looks to be their toughest warm-up match of the schedule.

A ferocious forward contest was edged by the Lions, who also kicked with greater accuracy and defended robustly. The Crusaders let themselves down with poor handling in slippery conditions and a lack of discipline.

It was an excellent defensive display from Farrell and co and a win - and performance - that was much-needed after the midweek loss to the Blues. The game today was about getting a performance and proving to us and them that they are capable of putting some type of a performance up against the All Blacks in a few weeks time.

"It's been a tough week, it's been a really tough week; there's been a lot of criticism", said Gatland. It's been challenging to all of us.

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The home support, one sensed, had come to see the in-form Super Rugby side, with nine All Blacks in their squad, firmly put the Lions in their place, and in doing so deliver a further blow to the tourists' confidence ahead of the Test series. "I hope we haven't disappointed too many people with that result tonight".

The England fly-half kicked all of the Lions' points as the touring side made it two wins from three games and inflicted a first defeat upon the Crusaders this season. They have been averaging five tries a game so our defence was outstanding, our lineout and set-pieces were pretty good.

The defence was highlighted by Gatland.

The Blues had fragments of possession and scored three tries, including the match-winner in the 74th minute which underscored the counter-attacking and off-loading threat posed by New Zealand teams.

Although the Crusaders strayed offside, the tourists couldn't find a way over and Farrell had to settle for making it 12-3.

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There is concern over the fitness of Welsh centre Davies and Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg, with Gatland confirming both had stayed off after failing concussion tests.

Gatland started to praise the starting back row - Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Toby Faletau - before checking himself.

The match in Christchurch will test a third element of Gatland's rugby philosophy and one that has already become contentious; the style of play he has asked the Lions to adopt in a bid to carry them to only their second test series victory in New Zealand in 13 attempts.

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