Lions tour: No way the British and Irish Lions will be able to bully baby All Blacks' – Johnny Sexton

  • 07/07/2017
Left to right: Ngani Laumpae, Jordie Barrett and Anton Lienart-Brown
Left to right: Ngani Laumpae, Jordie Barrett and Anton Lienart-Brown Photo credit: Getty Images

With just 13 Test caps between them, All Blacks midfielders Ngani Laumape and Anton Lienert-Brown could be considered ripe for bullying.

But Johnny Sexton doesn't see it that way.

The British and Irish Lions talisman says he, playmaking colleague Owen Farrell and centre Jonathan Davies won't be placing any extra targets on the Kiwi duo's heads when the two sides clash in Saturday's Test series decider.

All Blacks boss Steve Hansen sprung a pair of surprises for his third-Test squad on Thursday, naming both Laumape and rookie fullback Jordie Barrett to start.

With the Sexton-Farrell axis producing the goods in the Lions' second-Test victory last weekend, it's a major statement of faith from Hansen, who could well find his inexperienced midfield under siege from a barrage of Lions attacks.

But the 31-year-old Sexton said that wouldn't necessarily be the case, with both Laumape and Lienert-Brown carrying their own threats.

Peppering Barrett with high balls at the back may not work either.

"New caps for the All Blacks tend to shine at times, so we've got to be ready for them," the Leinster-based Irishman told reporters on Thursday.

"Laumape coming in at No.12, he caused us problems last week, so we've got to be ready for him - and Lienert-Brown brings a lot (too), we've played against him a few times now and he's a pretty good ball player."

While Hansen has rolled the dice on Laumape this week, it was Lions boss Warren Gatland who threw caution to the wind seven days ago by naming Sexton and Farrell to start together for the first time in New Zealand.

Yet it was a gamble that paid off, as Sonny Bill Williams' first-half red card helped the Lions roll over the top of a fatigued All Blacks side 24-21.

Sexton said he was happy with how the partnership was coming along on Kiwi soil, with the two playmakers able to interchange seamlessly.

Davies also helped provide the midfield muscle.

But the whole side would need to lift to fend off a trademark All Blacks post- loss backlash, as Sexton experienced in Dublin last November.

"It's great to have someone outside you feeding really good information at times - we get along really well off the pitch too which helps," Sexton said.

"The coaches obviously felt it would add a different dimension to the team and at times we saw that on the weekend. Hopefully we'll see a bit more of it."

NZN