'No one picked that backline... You've got to love Gatland. He picks on form'
‘Wow’ were the first words out of former British and Irish Lions centre Will Greenwood after Warren Gatland named his first Test 23 to take on the might of the Springboks on Saturday.
Gatland has picked an attack focused side that has rewarded tour form, with many of ‘go-to’ players having to make do with a spot on the bench or even the ignominy of not being making the matchday 23.
‘No one picked that back line. No one picked that back line,” said Greenwood on Sky Sports. “Maybe a few Scots came close but. You talk about attacking threat but Liam Williams is the bloke who set off and created possibly one of the greatest Lions tries of all time in the first Test in 2017. He side stepped Kieran Read, went around Aaron Cruden, offloaded up the left hand side, Sean O’Brien ends up scoring.
“A simply magnificent try and Williams has always been one of those players that Gatland has gone to. It’s fascinating. He’s always gone to Murray, he’s always gone to Farrell. He’s always gone to Faletau, he’s always gone to Williams. Three of those four make it into his 23, but only on the bench. One, Taulupe Faletau, doesn’t even make the 23.
“You’ve got to love Gatland. He picks players on form.
“You get on a plane on a Lions’ tour with Warren Gatland you play well, and you’ve got a chance of playing inn the Test series. Ali Price has created some real tempo for the team with some half darts and try assists. His ability to jag back up the short side, which is one of the areas still that most defensive coaches haven’t nailed down. And that will partly the reason he’s been picked.”
Greenwood also sees Duhan Van Der Merwe’s pick as a positive one, even if it apparently comes at the expense of Josh Adams, who scored eight tries so far.
Gatland has voiced his anger over his leaked Lions team and vows to do things differently next week for the second Test versus the Springboks #LionsRugby #CastleLionsSeries #RSAvBILhttps://t.co/ke9yx87me9
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“Duhan Van Der Merwe, undoubtedly you can go to his size but actually he’s played really, really well. He hasn’t scored as many tries as Josh Adams but if you shift it to him up the left-hand side, his ability to get a sniff and try to score up the touchline but if it’s not on to power back infield and keep the phase alive and not get bundled into touch has been his strength.
“He’s going to be really tested.
“He has picked a backline to play. Really, really play. Elliot Daly at 13, that’s really, really playing. He’s not picked his strongest defensive collective out there. It’s attack focused. If we’re going to beat the Springboks in South Africa, we going to have to score tries, which teams haven’t been able to do against them in pressure matches and that’s the basket he’s put his eggs in.”
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