Belfast Telegraph

We must seize last chance to stake Test claims: Best


By Jonathan Bradley

Ulster's British and Irish Lions trio will all be handed one more chance to force their way into Warren Gatland's Test plans tomorrow morning.

After losing their first encounter with the All Blacks on Saturday, changes are expected before this weekend's re-match against the back-to-back World Champions with Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jared Payne all set to get a run out against the Hurricanes in Wellington (8.35am).

Both Elliot Daly and Liam Williams forced their way into last Saturday's starting side despite featuring in the midweek team, and Best, who will again captain the panel, believes there is a chance for those selected tomorrow to do likewise.

"If you play well enough and put your hand up high enough then you have a chance of being selected," said the hooker who currently has Jamie George and Ken Owens ahead of him.

"That is all you can ask for as a player. We need to make sure we produce a really good collective performance."

With George Kruis on the bench, and Alun Wyn Jones having been below his usual standards on Saturday, there seems to be a real chance for either Henderson or England's Courtney Lawes to press their case for Test inclusion, while Payne will again offer Gatland versatility off the bench. But after getting a first midweek win of the tour against the Chiefs last Tuesday, Best says that another strong team performance will be everyone's primary concern against a Hurricanes side bolstered by some All Black releases.

"It is a massive challenge for us," the 34-year-old said.

"Now we have a chance as a squad to put our hand up for selection for the second Test, but if we start to look beyond to Saturday, you take your eye off Tuesday against the defending Super Rugby champions and one of the strongest franchises there is.

"We have been preparing well, we had training on Saturday before going out to support the boys in the evening.

"We are in a pretty good place at the minute getting ready for the game.

"All Tour we have talked about the next game being the most important one, now we get the chance to pull on the jersey on Tuesday and pull a bit of momentum back.

"I suppose it is a bit of a role reversal from earlier in the Tour but it is important for the whole squad that we get out and produce a performance for morale as much as anything."

Gatland echoed Best's sentiment that Test jerseys will be very much up for grabs in the Westpac Stadium.

"There is definitely an opportunity, and I think the players for Tuesday will realise there is an opportunity to go out and impress," said the man who also led the Lions to a series victory over Australia four years ago.

"The message from 2013 was that there were significant changes between the first, second and third Tests so there will be opportunities (tomorrow).

"We spoke about that as coaches in selecting the side, players with the chance to put their hands up.

"There are some areas we need to improve on from Saturday and guys get the chance to go out there and show their wares.

"This week is really important for us, there is no hiding from that, so to get a good result and a victory to build for Saturday is going to be pretty crucial for us."

Belfast Telegraph


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