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29th Jun 2017

Ronan O’Gara shares same opinion as most about the most screwed over Lion

And it's not Peter O'Mahony

Patrick McCarry

The Lions are going for broke and there have been some casualties along the way.

Warren Gatland named his Lions squad for the Second Test against New Zealand, on Thursday afternoon [local time], and there were three changes to the starting line-up. Peter O’Mahony, Leigh Halfpenny and George Kruis missed out on the squad entirely but Ronan O’Gara feels the most harshly treated Lion has been dropped to the bench.

The former Ireland and Lions outhalf told The Hard Yards rugby podcast [listen below] that England centre Ben Te’o can count himself very unlucky not to be starting at No.12 against the All Blacks.

Having led the way for carries and offloads, as well as landing six crunching tackles in defence, many felt Te’o was a certainty to face New Zealand at ‘The Cake Tin’ but, instead, Johnny Sexton comes in at 10 with Owen Farrell taking Te’o’s place in midfield.

Most people will recall a number of crunching Te’o hits – on Sam Cane, Aaron Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams [below] – in his 55-minute shift against New Zealand.

While the Worcester centre was hard-wired and fully committed in defence, he did not offer the same in attack as the likes of Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams & Co.

Some word argue that Te’o was not primarily selected to cut the AB’s defence to ribbons but his hesitation, and slip, early in the second half spurned a 3-on-2 and a clear try-scoring chance. A converted score would have put the Lions 15-13 in front but it was not to be.

Credit: Sky Sport NZ

The Lions wouldn’t get as close again.

Still, O’Gara feels the former Leinster player was the unluckiest of all the Lions in Gatland’s re-jig. He said:

“I didn’t think there would be any way Gatland would go for it [Sexton and Farrell at 10-12] considering the last 30 minutes, the last day. I don’t think it worked. We under appreciate how good the All Blacks are. It works against most teams but, on Saturday, it didn’t work when it shouldn’t have.

“I think they lost energy when Te’o went off. I thought he was their best back.

“I thought [his substitution] demotivated the whole team so it will be interesting to see how this dynamic goes.”

There can be few complaints that the Lions definitely lost a spark when Te’o was replaced after his bright start.

He is now back in the “finisher” role that England coach Eddie Jones has bestowed upon him at Test level. One hopes that the Lions are in a position to finish the game on a high when he is finally unleashed and not completely finished.