Gatland wants Lions to “play more rugby” in series finale

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland wants The British & Irish Lions to play some more rugby in the third and final Test as they target a first series victory on South African soil in 24 years.

The tourists claimed the opening Test against the Springboks with a 22-17 victory before the reigning world champions responded by winning the rematch 27-9 in Cape Town.

Saturday will see the two sides face off once again in a winner-takes-all finale to the Castle Lager Lions Series Test trilogy as the Lions look to emulate their 1997 predecessors.

And after making six changes to the starting XV which lost last time out, Gatland insisted the tourists would look to take the attack to the Springboks on Saturday.

“You’re just trying to get that balance right. I think if you go back we did the same thing four years ago, we made six changes, and I think that’s a credit to the players,” he said.

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“There have been so many tight calls, so many where you’re there and having a long discussion about selection and trying to get the right combination and thinking about players to start.

Warren Gatland and Dan Biggar

“There have definitely been some tough, tight calls on this Tour. We definitely want to play some more rugby and we just didn’t get that opportunity in the second half.

“First half we got some of the bounces we got in the first Test in terms of aerial stuff, basically we got nothing from the air in the second half and South Africa kicked the ball 22 times in that half.

“We only kicked ten times, we were trying to go out there and get some momentum and play some rugby and we just never got into the game in that last 20 minutes or so.

Lions Rugby name team for final Test against Springboks

“That’s why there are some changes and Finn Russell comes on the bench because he offers us something a little bit different to the other two tens who are very good at what they do.”

The inclusion of the Tour’s leading try-scorer Josh Adams is one of the six changes made by Gatland to the starting line-up, with Liam Williams also preferred at full-back.

Bundee Aki comes into the midfield to join Robbie Henshaw while Ali Price forms the half-back pairing with Dan Biggar as Wyn Jones and Ken Owens start in the front row.

Finn Russell, Sam Simmonds and Adam Beard could also make their Test debuts for the Lions off the bench and Gatland admitted the Lions needed to react to their defeat on Saturday.

“We just felt there were certain things from the weekend, particularly in terms of the aerial battle as we got nothing out of that, so that was one of the areas we looked at,” he said.

“We were disappointed with the last 20 minutes as we gave away eight penalties in the last 20 minutes and four of them we considered to be pretty needless.

Alun Wyn Jones speaks to the team after the game

“I’m not complaining about the result and in fairness to South Africa they finished strongly, still it was a tight game and we were happy where we were at with 60 minutes on the clock.

“We just felt that Wyn Jones was very unlucky as he picked up that injury before the first Test, he’s back fit and we wanted that combination between Wyn and Ken [Owens] in the front row.

“Obviously Ali [Price] did well in the first Test so we swapped our nines around and then with Bundee [Aki] and Robbie [Henshaw] they have a pretty familiar combination.

Jones vows Lions will “put it right” in final Test

“That midfield has always been a bit of a discussion, a bit of a debate for us, and just looking at the physicality that Bundee brought in the A game and the combination of those two.”

The Lions have been restricted to just one try in the first two Tests but Gatland believes the tourists have what it takes to unlock the Springboks if they can remain patient.

“If you look at the game, there were two tries scored by them through kick pressure and they got a lot of stuff from the aerial battle, scrums,” added Gatland.

“That’s the way the game is being played at the moment and if you do win that it does give you an opportunity to be attacking and to move the ball, defences are so tight.

A view of training

“There is very little space for both teams so when you get down there you have to look at playing through the phases and moving the ball, when we did that we put them under pressure.

“When we were playing three, four or five phases then they gave away a penalty and we were able to keep that pressure on so we just have to make sure we do more of that.

“We’ve got to be positive in terms of shifting the ball when we do create opportunities and those are the things we’re working hard on this week. We want to keep up that tempo this weekend.

“It’s not so much about the creativity, it’s making sure we get some front-foot ball and I wouldn’t say South Africa have been creative in any way from an attacking perspective.

“They haven’t really stressed us in any way, and we played some good rugby earlier in this Tour and if we can get some front-foot ball, that’s something we’ve been working on this week.”

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