London - Lions coach Warren Gatland has gambled everything
in his selection of Owen Farrell at inside centre and Jonathan Sexton at
flyhalf for the make-or-break second Test with New Zealand on Saturday,
according to the British media.
The Daily Telegraph sums up Gatland's decision to play both
the England and Ireland playmakers as the "biggest call of his
career" with 'The Sun' and 'The Times' newspapers declaring the Kiwi as
"going for broke".
However, England's 2003 World Cup winning flyhalf Jonny
Wilkinson swims against this tide regarding the decision.
Wilkinson tells The Daily Telegraph despite the experiment
not coming off when Lions head coach Clive Woodward picked him and then Wales
flyhalf Stephen Jones in the first Test against the All Blacks in 2005 he
believes this can work.
"You don't take the number off your back (referring to
the flyhalf No 10) and wither," he said.
"When you have that balance, when you're both in the
game and (in italics) controlling it, it's an amazing feeling."
However, the same newspaper's rugby correspondent compares
Gatland's selection unfavourably with his equally contentious one of dropping
Irish icon Brian O'Driscoll for the deciding Test against Australia on the 2013
Lions tour - Gatland ended up being praised as the Lions won to take the series
"That was a daring move (O'Driscoll). This is a salvage
mission," he opined.
Most of the British media bemoan the dropping of centre Ben
Te'o to accommodate Sexton and Farrell's partnership saying Te'o had managed to
keep opposite number Sonny Bill Williams quiet in the first Test last weekend.
The Daily Mail takes Gatland to task for putting them
alongside each other in such an important match when they have minimal
experience playing together.
"Warren Gatland has gambled by picking Johnny Sexton
and Owen Farrell for the Lions in the win-or-bust second Test against New
Zealand," commented their correspondent.
"The pair have never started together and have played
only 75 minutes alongside each other on this tour.
"But they will now link up as fly-half and inside
centre on Saturday in a game the Lions - 1-0 down -- must win to keep the
three-match series alive."
However, England's World Cup winning coach Woodward writing
in the same newspaper applauds the decision.
"The plus sides of this arrangement are
considerable," remarked the 61-year-old.
"We saw last week the attacking and counter-attacking
capability of Liam Williams, Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson and that could be
enhanced with this twin playmaker set-up.
"One I like because of the extra options it gives
'The Times' resorts to dry humour to assess Gatland's call.
"Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell must have been simply
outstanding in training," he wrote.
"They must be purring. They must be displaying a
chemistry like that between Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire."
This has to be the explanation for the selection of Sexton
and Farrell together at No 10 and No 12.
"It is a far sight better than the alternative
interpretation, which is that Warren Gatland is shuffling his cards and has
resorted to playing a gambler's hand."
Finally despite his doubts The Daily Telegraph correspondent
issues a rousing rallying call.
"This is a time for the bugle call to sound," he
"Gatland has rolled the dice. Boom or bust, jackpot or
"On this selection rests so much."
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody
Substitutes: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ngani Laumape
British & Irish Lions
15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (captain), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola
Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell