Belfast Telegraph

Murray calls for better discipline - and weather - in bid to get tour on course

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

This is arguably the most important game of the Lions tour.

If they can become the first team to beat the Crusaders in 2017 tomorrow morning then Wednesday's defeat to the Blues will be forgotten. Lose and it comes into sharper focus. After tomorrow's game, there are three games before the All Blacks squad named by Steve Hansen yesterday get their teeth into the tourists.

Warren Gatland was insisting yesterday that his first-choice team remains off the agenda, but behind the scenes the starting XV must be formulating in the coaches' heads.

The problem they have is that rather than players putting their hands up and forcing their way into the team, the trend so far is for players to play their way off it.

So, they need to return to their basics. Gatland has picked a strong side, packed with experience but there hasn't been much on the pitch to represent what's on paper so far.

For Conor Murray, who makes his first start in red since 2013, it is about tightening up on discipline rather than opening up with the ball necessarily.

"It all depends on the conditions," he said.

"The first two games have been bad weather-wise and have limited our attacking options. Having said that, we've still created a few try-scoring opportunities and didn't convert them.

"Wednesday was more about our discipline, it just let us down and we let them off the hook at times. Had we not, we would have been confident we would have stayed in their half, we would have got set-pieces in their half and been able to attack a lot more.

"That's the hope and hopefully with a little bit better weather we can express ourselves. I think it's not an area of concern. The attacking game plan is there."

If the Lions are to succeed, then they'll need to score tries and they have amassed two in 160 minutes so far on this tour.

Lions team to face Crusaders: S Hogg (Scotland), G North, J Davies (both Wales), B Te'o (England), L Williams (Wales), O Farrell (England), C Murray (Ireland), M Vunipola, J George (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), A W Jones (Wales, capt), G Kruis (England), P O'Mahony, S O'Brien (both Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), D Cole, M Itoje (both England), CJ Stander (Ireland), R Webb (Wales), J Sexton (Ireland), A Watson (England).

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