T the secret of the high level selection is to increase the sense of pre-game anticipation. If the team sheet can not only energize your own players but also put the opponent a little bit down. 'ease, so much the better. Warren Gatland a checked these two boxes; now we have to wait and see if this will cheat the Boks.
South Africa will certainly scrutinize Gatland 's selection with suspicion. Since Jason Robinson excitingly jumped around Australian Chris Latham at Gabba exactly 20 years ago, a Lions side have seemed no better equipped to start a series more proactively. Gatland has been bold - eye-catching in some cases - and put together a team that seems specifically geared up to bring the game to their hosts.
This is a classic situation of half full or half empty glass. There will be some, in particular, who suck their teeth in the absence of several reliable Test veterans who would normally have expected to start. ConorMurray, Taulupe Faletau, Owen Farrell, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola… all featured prominently in the 2017 Test Series against the All Blacks. If nothing else, they would have known what to expect.
But Gatland, to his credit, has largely chosen form, not reputation. After three previous Lions tours, he knows winning this kind of series is getting ahead of the game. There is no point in playing it safe until the final test, when all may already be lost. In recent days, he has frequently spoken of his hunch: If the 2021 Lions fail, they won't do it with a whimper.
And so he left for this, hoping that unknown but potentially exciting combinations will occur. Ali Price and Dan Biggar, for example, are expected to host a Lions test together although they have yet to start a single game together on this tour. It's the same thinge with the first, second and second row combinations, as well as the last three. To South African analysts, it will almost feel like fighting an army of unknown warriors.
These elements of surprise and ignorance can work in both ways, of course. But Gatland isn 't a fool. Why wait to be monstrous by the Springbok pack when England were in the 2019 World Cup final? Better, surely, to try to make the big beasts run and not let them settle in.
It will also take a solid set piece but it looks like to a side Lions well equipped to face the air battle that will inevitably ensue. Biggar is exceptional in the air, as is Anthony Watson, while Elliot Daly and Stuart Hogg - more than some of their rivals - have long mop boots that will help the cause.ritoriale.
And, in case of doubt, Gatland also opted for a small lead pipe. Everyone knows how brilliant Cheslin Kolbe is, but how much will he appreciate the thunderous locomotive that is Duhan van der Merwe rushing at him? If the Lions end up with a strike penalty five yards from the opposing line, who in world rugby would you most like to see with the ball? The answer, at least in the Northern Hemisphere, is either Luke Cowan-Dickie or Sam Simmonds, both so adept at crashing low and hard under bigger men. Eddie Jones doesn't seem to like the way Exeter plays too much, but Gatland, another ex-prostitute, is clearly a fan.
Fearlessly tacking his colors to Top level masts, of course, is Gatland's specialty. Much like the great Brian O 'Driscoll was ultimately treated exactly the same as any other ava player.nt in the final test in Australia 2013, so Murray, Faletau, George and Farrell discovered that there are no sacred cows in this environment.
In the cold light of a cape winter's day, however, did either of them do enough on this tour to decide Gatland over him? Murray may have been named substitute captain after Alun Wyn Jones dislocated his shoulder, but he was largely slow in South Africa. Faletau and George remain outstanding international forwards, but both are now 30 years old. Perhaps Gatland detected a more brutal hunger in his slightly younger rookie Lions, Jack Conan and Cowan-Dickie.
He also trusted the evidence with his own eyes with Daly, who hasn't started at 13 for England since November 2016. The Saracens back has looked infinitely happier in his old favorite position and has the skill set pTo complement the fiery attributes of his midfielder partner Robbie Henshaw. If Chris Harris and Josh Adams have reason to feel slightly aggrieved about missing a game, their luck may present itself at some point.
May Being Gatland's biggest punt, however, is on the man ready to lead the Lions on Saturday to meet their destiny. What a story it would be if Alun Wyn "Lazarus" Jones could guide his team to the promised land of a series victory; how, on the other hand, will it be hopelessly disappointing if his tender shoulder deforms again under the full force of an inflated Springbok bag.
This is just one of a number of calculated bets made by a head coach who realized long ago that rugby history rarely favors the undecided manager. Gatland, as a result, rolled the dice vigorously and it is now his turn.men who it is to repay this faith.