1. Leaders – Look at any great team that has accomplished success in their field and you will find that they all have one thing in common, leaders. While every team has a designated captain, the best teams have multiple leaders on the field, the kind of personnel who set the tone in everything that they do. Take for example, the Manchester United football team of the 1990’s, the England Rugby World Cup winning side from 2003 or the All Blacks side of the modern era. The latter being the most relevant in this case, an All Black side skippered for years by the great Richie McCaw. While McCaw had the responsibility of making key decisions, leaders all over the field surrounded him. Test sides boasting the likes of tomorrow’s test captain, Kieran Read as well as the likes of Kevin Mealamu, Jerome Kaino, Dan Carter, Sonny Bill Williams and Ma’a Nonu who’ve heavily contributed to the team’s domination. The British & Irish Lions team of the second and third test has much the same aura about it with skipper Sam Warburton surrounded by the likes of the vocal Alun Wyn Jones, Johnny Sexton, Owen Farrell and the more silent type in Taulupe Faletau. With the leadership skills and talent to match, this Lions side is more than capable of beating an All Blacks side missing Dane Coles, Sonny Bill Williams and Ben Smith, all of whom would no doubt have bolstered Hansen’s starting fifteen if they were available for selection.
2. Fearless youth – The Lions have a wealth of young talent to compliment the experienced leaders, showing in the second test that they can more than match the All Black powerhouse in physicality. The youthful front row of Vunipola, George & Furlong is matched in exuberance by the back three of Daly, Watson & Williams. The return to form of Jonathan Davies at outside centre sees him playing some of the best rugby he has played in recent seasons. Take one look at the bench and you’ve got players that will bring the same intensity if called upon, Sinkler & Lawes epitomized this when introduced in the latter stages of the second test. Should the Sexton and Farrell combination fail to ignite, Gatland may turn to Ben Teo to impose himself in the midfield on the back of several dynamic tour performances.
3. Breakdown Nous – The Lions successfully showed that they could slow the New Zealand ball down at the breakdown and should they be able to do the same to a full New Zealand complement this weekend then they will give themselves every chance. The work rate of the locks & back-row restricted the clean presentation of the ball at ruck time and in doing so slowed the quick service that Beauden Barrett has become accustomed to from the efficient Aaron Smith. The “streetwise” Owen Farrell bought Murray the time and space he needed to evade TJ Perenara for the all-important try and more of the same will be required in the next eighty minutes.