Lions have options if Stuart Hogg is ruled out

That's definitely been evident to me in training, things have been gelling better and that's probably evident in the game just past.

The line-speed of the Lions defence also forced Crusaders flyhalf Richie Mounga to kick much too often, thus not allowing the Crusaders to play their normal running game.

Apologetically tripping into the cliched zone of rugby jargon, Evans said the tourists were "a massive set-piece" team so provided the hosts took a coalface mindset to negate the ramifications of that everything else would fall into place.

While the Highlanders will be without their All Blacks in scrumhalf Aaron Smith and fullback Ben Smith, injuries earlier in the season had seen the side call on their full squad to cover and those players would step up again against the Lions, said McLeod.

The Lions' surprise defeat to the Blues saw many doubt their chances of victory in their three-Test series with the All Blacks in the weeks ahead.

Henry defended the Lions' performances so far, saying that their lack of game time together is a major factor.

"For some of these guys this will be the biggest rugby day of their careers, and it is a special moment in any rugby player's life to play against the Lions", he told reporters. "At this level when you explain something to a group and you think you're talking to just a certain minority, the rest of them tend to listen as well and pick it up". The Lions have made a statement that they are going to be competitive come Test match time and that's critical for our great game. The Lions dominated possession, held it for long periods and advanced the ball through the outstanding ball-carrying of players such as prop Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Peter O'Mahony and the replacement C.J. Stander.

I thought there were two areas where there was concern.

Hogg raced face first into Murray's elbow as the Lions scrum-half tried to evade the counter-attacking full-back. The Crusaders scrum which is obviously the tight-five for the All Blacks gave them a bit of a touch-up at scrum time.

It will require another stern defensive effort to stop the Highlanders on a pitch that Warren Gatland has confirmed is "very dry" given it sits under the roof of the indoor Forsyth Barr Stadium, something that has helped the Highlanders score over 20 points in all but one of their last 10 rounds of Super Rugby. A lot of those are attacking kicks.

England played with 10 debutants and it was one of them, NZ-born Denny Solomona, who scored the winning try about two minutes from the end. They play to their strengths. What they need to do is play how they normally play and they can win playing their game. That's why I find it so fascinating. Farrell is long enough in the game now to take the rough with the smooth, but even so was patently delighted with the improvement shown against the Crusaders.

"I think the Ulster boys are getting back in to Belfast at about 8pm on July 12 and I'm getting married at noon on the July 14", he said with a smile yesterday.

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