Lions put 40-year tour opener record on line against Barbarians
It has been over 40 years since the British and Irish Lions last lost their first tour match of a series and this must have been factored into their price of 1/6 to start the latest series with a victory over the Barbarians in Hong Kong.
The Lions will start with a predominantly Welsh core of nine players as coach Warren Gatland has decided to rest squad members that were involved in either the Aviva Premiership final or RaboDirect Pro12 final.
Leicester’s appearance in the former of these finals is a reason for only two England starters, with Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling and Tom Croft all given the Barbarians game off.
Meanwhile, there was hefty Irish involvement in the latter final, with Brian O’Driscoll and Jonny Sexton among those playing for Leinster and Rory Best and Tommy Bowe representing Ulster.
One Welshman that is missing for the Barbarians tour opener is Lions captain Sam Warburton because of a knee injury sustained in training, meaning that 2009 Lions skipper Paul O’Connell will wear the armband again.
Interestingly, Warburton’s absence means that only one of the last five Lions skippers have led out the side for the tour opener.
Based on the team selections, the Lions should have an edge in the scrum, especially with O’Connell being paired with fellow giant Richie Gray in the second row.
However, the Barbarians could be dangerous in the backs if the likes of Joe Rokocoko and Takudzwa Ngwenya are allowed to get their legs motoring out wide.
It is 4/1 that the Barbarians secure victory and leave the Lions on an early downer, while 5/4 could prove a decent punt on a Barbarians triumph when given a 10-point headstart.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publication