Warren Gatland has named a strong fifteen for the Lions’ match with the News South Wales Waratahs, with various combinations hinting at the coach’s thinking a week ahead of the first Test.
The unbeaten tourists are 1/80 favourites to triumph, while the Waratahs are 16/1 to cause an upset.
While backs George North, Manu Tuilagi and Brian O’Driscoll are unavailable due to fitness concerns, the pack looks to be a formidable unit, and should see them home here.
Locks Paul O’Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones start – as they did for the first Test in South Africa- while the widely predicted half-back combination of Mike Philips and Jonathan Sexton also gets a run out. The pair performed well against an admittedly weakened Western Force outfit, and will be given a sterner examination here.
The New South Wales Waratahs are likely to offer a rigorous challenge, as they have secured just one win fewer than the Queensland Reds in the Super XV this term and taken six of their seven games at the Allianz Stadium.
Michael Cheika’s side are also bolstered by the return of captain Dave Dennis and centre Rob Horne, released from the Wallaby squad by coach Robbie Deans with a view to giving them game time against the tourists. Australia sevens internationals Bernard Foley and Matt Lucas are also available to the Sydney-based side.
The Lions were convincingly beaten on the handicap in their last game against the Queensland Reds, a margin that has been increased from 18 points to 25 here.
The Tahs are 10/11 to win from a +25 point start, which they look good value to do considering their augmented line-up and encouraging season thus far.
However, this remains a strong Lions outfit, and one which rightly starts as hot favourites. Consequently, winning margins markets could well entice the smartest money.
A 21-30 point Lions victory is the leader at 15/8, but a stubborn display by the home side – as the Lions encountered against the Reds – could well see that margin reduced to between 11 and 20 points, available at 12/5.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing