I'll give the Lions the opportunity to make this selection themselves, but the loss to the Highlanders showed the tourists are either lazy or cynical in a couple of facets.

The hosts got away from the tackled ball as soon as possible, whereas you often spied red shirts lying in the back of the ruck or rolling the wrong way to kill the ball.

The Lions also regularly creep up offside on defence - they call it "line speed".

They are not trusting their pace or agility, and a couple of cases justified a yellow card rather than a penalty.


The kick in the butt their side took at Auckland and Whangarei should have sunk in, but the skill set of this group is much lower than their first XV.

There also seem to be a number of off-the-ball cheap shots that are of no value. If they put that energy into competing legally, they'd go a lot better.

Having said that, I thought referee Angus Gardner had a good game, even if he was lenient on the rolling maul to start.

A telling point for me was the performance of the Highlanders front row - both starters and replacements - blowing the Lions pack off the park.

When the Crusaders/All Blacks scrum power rolled them on Saturday they wanted a fight, and the same happened in Dunedin. Look at Dan Cole. How many years has he been around? He got roasted.

Overall, I think the Highlanders' win could be put down to better fitness and skill. They never stopped trying. At times I kept telling them to put the chip away, but they carried out a tenacious game plan. Given their absence of internationals, those without much time together during the season put their hands up. I know from my day it's not hard for a provincial side to motivate themselves against a touring party. For most of them it's their test match for the year.

The loss of Courtney Lawes to potential concussion is major ahead of the tests. He and Maro Itoje are athletic ball-runners and if you were to select a couple out of the squad, they'd quickly master the New Zealand style of play.

Of the Highlanders, Waisake Naholo proved he's still got it and Lima Sopoaga went well for his 50-odd minutes.


Luke Whitelock also deserves credit for his leadership in the circumstances.

He mightn't be as dynamic as other No.8s in the country like Kieran Read, Ardie Savea and Liam Squire, but he did his chances of an All Blacks recall no harm.