Facing World Champions, the All Blacks, at any time is a daunting prospect, however when you have had just over a month to prepare a team, it is even more difficult. That is the situation currently facing Warren Gatland and the British & Irish Lions, who take on the All Blacks for the first time on Saturday, knowing that they must improve significantly from their opening tour matches. Despite the home side being the overwhelming favourites for the series, the spirt of the Lions means that they can never be ruled out, with bookmakers offering bets on both the individual matches, as well as the overall series winner. Let’s take a look at the two teams, along with some of the best betting tips ahead of the series.
New Zealand All Blacks
Having warmed up for the series with a demolishing of Samoa, the All Blacks certainly didn’t show any signs of rustiness, which is certainly ominous for the tourists. The home side are currently on a 46-game unbeaten run against all teams in New Zealand, with Australia the last team to beat them at home back in 2009. New Zealand are a unique team in the world of rugby, with their running game and power feared throughout the Southern and Northern hemispheres. The likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Beauden Barrett and Israell Dagg will be constant threats in the back line, while the experience of Brodie Retallick and the returning Kieran Read in the forwards make them a formidable opponent.
British & Irish Lions
Warren Gatland has opted for speed in his back line, at least for the first test anyway, with the New Zealand born coach hoping that Liam Williams, Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly can get enough ball to trouble the home side. Elsewhere, Irish flanker Peter O’Mahony captains the side, with Welsh number eight Taulupe Faletau looking to prove himself on the biggest stage of all. Meanwhile, young Saracens superstar Maro Itoje will be hoping to make a big impact off the bench. How the Lions defend is set to go a long way to determining their success throughout the series.
Top Betting Tips
Due to having had such a limited time together as a unit, it comes as little surprise that many of the major bookmakers are backing the All Blacks to take a 1-0 lead in the series at Eden Park. William Hill back the home side at 1/4 to earn an opening victory, while the same bookies offer customers odds of 10/3 for the Lions to spring an upset. Should the All Blacks continue their dominance, backing them at 8/13 at Ladbrokes to complete a 3-0 series whitewash may not be the worse idea. However, for those fans who are confident that the Lions can upset the rulebook, Betfred offer odds of 13/2 for a 2-1 series victory for Gatland’s men.