Brumbies loss sees several Lions tamed in battle for Test place

The British & Irish Lions’ first loss to a provincial side in 16 years will have raised questions about the make-up of the squad heading into the first Test, but Warren Gatland may have found answers too.

From the XV that started the 14-12 defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday, arguably only Toby Faletau could compete for a starting berth when the Test series with Australia starts in Brisbane on Saturday.

The Wales flanker will come under pressure for the No. 8 shirt from Ireland’s Jamie Heaslip, but the rest of Gatland’s side almost picks itself – particularly after the disjointed showing that the shadow line-up put in in the Australian capital.

Whilst the selections of the likes of Shane Williams and to a lesser extent Christian Wade were designed to protect valuable assets, others missed their chance to stake a claim for a Brisbane start, particularly those upfront.

Rory Best was captain for the day yet his fallibility at the line-out was cruelly exposed, with eight throws going astray.

Gatland will hope that Wales’s Richard Hibbard can prove more accurate for the Lions, who are available at 4/6 to win the first Test and are 4/7 favourites for the series.

The coach would have believed that a strong performance from his squad members would have further energised the side, but now that the visitors have lost their 100% record the only team given a boost from the Brumbies loss is the Wallabies.

They are 5/4 to win the first Test and 6/4 for the series.

Yet far from overreacting, Gatland would do well to remember that his patched up team still came to within two points of the leading Super 15 side, with Stuart Hogg striking two penalties against a post.

With Leigh Halfpenny restored to the XV and kicking duties at the weekend, opportunities like those presented in Canberra should be taken, making the 10/11 for a Lions win on the -3.0 handicap in Brisbane an enticing option.

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