5 Lions players Warren Gatland could turn to for South Africa series decider

The decisive third Test is fast approaching

Duncan Bech
Monday 02 August 2021 15:12 BST
Lions boss Warren Gatland has some tough calls to make in selection for the third Test (PA)
Lions boss Warren Gatland has some tough calls to make in selection for the third Test (PA) (PA Wire)

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Louise Thomas

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The British and Irish Lions are considering a shake-up of their team following Saturday’s 27-9 defeat by South Africa

Here the PA news agency examines five players head coach Warren Gatland could call on to reinvigorate his starting XV for the series decider.

Liam Williams full-back, Wales

With the benefit of hindsight, leaving Williams out of the first two Tests has been a selection blunder that must be rectified when the stakes are at their highest. Peerless under the high ball, Williams’ brilliance in the air would have been invaluable as the bombs rained down at Cape Town Stadium. Stuart Hogg’s strength lies in his running and counter-attacking, but against South Africa’s suffocating gameplan these skills are a luxury.

Josh Adams wing, Wales

Of all the players to miss out on selection for the Test series, Adams can feel the most aggrieved. Eight tries in four appearances on his maiden Lions voyage painted an accurate picture of a ruthless finisher in the form of his life. But Gatland opted for the size and footwork of Duhan van der Merwe, a call that backfired through his indiscipline and inability to catch the ball. Adams will surely be given his chance with his aerial prowess an added bonus against the kick-happy Springboks.

Finn Russell, fly-half, Scotland

It would be a harsh call to drop Dan Biggar, who has been reasonable in difficult circumstances, but Gatland needs a fly-half with a touch of genius to unlock the most ferocious defence in the game. Russell has a dazzling array of skills that make him unorthodox but also capable of conjuring the unexpected. Pairing him alongside Ali Price in an all-Scotland half-back duo would be a bold statement of intent.

Wyn Jones, prop, Wales

A shoulder injury that forced him to withdraw from the starting XV for the first Test may have the final say, but the Lions need their best scrummaging loosehead prop on the field. South Africa’s set-piece was revitalised last Saturday and they profited enormously. They will go hard again in the decider and Jones’ expertise could help the tourists achieve parity. Mako Vunipola stood up well but his greatest impact on tour has been off the been and Gatland must be tempted to restore him to this role.

Taulupe Faletau, number eight, Wales

Picking Faletau would be a decision based on reputation rather than form because the big Wales number eight has made little impact on the tour to date. Even as a second-half replacement on Saturday his contribution was minimal, yet Jack Conan has been no more than solid at number eight and the back row needs new energy. Faletau’s renown as a big game player would justify his selection, the gamble would come in whether he can deliver.

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