Wellington - The British and Irish Lions have Sonny Bill
Williams in their sights in the second Test against the All Blacks in
Wellington on Saturday as they battle to keep the series alive.
With the Lions on the ropes after being crushed 30-15 last
weekend in the first of the three-Test series, Gatland announced a rejigged
side for the rematch and singled out the code-hopping Williams as one player
they had to stop.
"It's important we shut him down," Gatland said
after entrusting the 94 kilogram, 1.80 metres Owen Farrell with marking the
much bigger Williams who weighs in at 108 kilos and stands 1.91 metres tall.
"We allowed him too much time on the ball last week. I
can't remember Sonny Bill passing the ball during the game but he got some good
gain line and a couple of offloads away and gave them front-foot ball.
"We have to make sure of our line speed in terms of
stopping that. It is important that we stop that and have been working hard on
that all week."
The bruising Ben Te'o, entrusted with marking Williams a
week ago, had been hailed as one of the standouts of the tour but is now a
casualty from the first Test fallout.
In a previous life, playing the rival rugby league code,
Te'o may have claimed the upper hand when he frequently clashed with Williams
but all that changed when it came to a rugby union showdown.
He tried to assert his authority with a crunching tackle
early in the second half only to be penalised for driving Williams illegally
into the ground while the double World Cup winning All Black centre picked
himself up and continued unscathed.
Gatland said it was tough to drop Te'o, who will get time
off the bench, "but we made a call based on the opportunities we created
and think we stretched the All Blacks at times".
The decision to move Farrell to inside centre has allowed
Gatland to start Johnny Sexton at fly-half to have dual playmakers in action.
It indicates a change of emphasis for the Lions after the
All Blacks negated their standard rush defence and box kick tactics in the
Gatland, who has toyed with pairing the two pivots Farrell
and Sexton in earlier tour games, said the combination "does open some
opportunities for us if we do get the ball back to attack and that is why we
have gone with the combinations we have."
"From an attacking perspective it has given us more of
an attack with the 10-12 combination.
"It just gives us two ball players, two kicking
options. A first and second receiver and we have two left foot options with
Jonathan Davies and Elliot Daly as well."