Steve Richardson previews the Lions' final warm-up game before Saturday's first Test.
Chiefs v Lions - Tuesday, 08:35 Sky Sports 1
After defeats to the Blues and Highlanders, the Lions midweek men will be desperate to show their pride and claws when they tackle the Chiefs in Hamilton on Tuesday.
And bookmakers think they will, raising the handicap line from -3 after Saturday's 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks to -7 in places.
This looks the right move beause while none of the Lions who started that win in Rotorua are in Tuesday's side with Head Coach Warren Gatland protecting players for Saturday's First Test against the New Zealand at Eden Park, the Chiefs are far from close to being at full-strength.
Hooker Nathan Harris, Half-Backs Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden and dynamic Flanker Sam Cane are among the six absent All Blacks. Hika Elliot and Liam Messam are the only two of their Maori contingent available and they are on the bench. Another Back-rower Michael Leitch is away with Japan. They have injuries too.
The midweek Lions will have been hurt by the unfortunate and self-inflicted nature of the losses to the Blues and Highlanders. Gatland is now giving them an opportunity to cut out the errors, keep their concentration and improve their continuity and discipline. Replacements will be kept to a minimum. They should be pushing for consideration in the last two Tests of the series and determined to show be ready to step up immediately if there is a training ground injury.
There has been talk about Gatland devaluing the Lions brand and creating a schism in the camp by bringing in six players from the Wales and Scotland squads in Auckland and Australia to bolster his bench and future resources. Dan Biggar and James Haskell have publicly denied this, while Tighthead Prop Tomas Francis and Fly-Half Finn Russell would have been disappointed to miss out on the squad and a third, Scrum-Half Gareth Davies, is undoubtedly of Lions quality but his selection chances suffered from being second-string to Rhys Webb for Wales. The other two call-ups Loosehead Prop Allan Dell and Lock Cory Hill fit the mould of original tour party front-five selection policy. They are secure at the set-piece and mobile in the loose.
This Chiefs are not the same side that are currently fourth in the overall Super Rugby standings but they are still worth backing to score 21 points or more. Ten of the players that beat Wales 40-7 in a midweek match last June are in their squad and they have reached the mark in nine of their last ten home matches.
The Chiefs tactics are likely to be to run the ball as much as possible and unlike the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday, they are unlikely to be hindered by the weather.
With such an approach likely, the 20-1 on offer about Samoa international Tim Nanai-Williams scoring the first try looks stonking value.
The Lions have conceded the first try in four of their five matches on tour and while lively Nanai-Williams wears the 13-shirt he is more than just an Outside Centre. He is comfortable on the wing and at Full-Back and also loves to act as a secondary Scrum-Half.
The Lions will be braced for the Chiefs' expansive tactics and have the players to prosper in an open game too. But they will look to attack off a solid base like they managed against the Maori All Blacks and like they achieved, without any tries, in their 12-3 success over the Crusaders the previous Saturday.
This means plenty of territory, set-pieces and close-range pack moves. Number eight CJ Stander scored after a rolling maul against the Blues, Flanker Sam Warburton crossed against the Highlanders after picking up from the base of a ruck between the posts. Lock Maro Itoje dived over against the Maori All Blacks. On numerous other occasions on tour, Lions forwards have been denied tries by the TMO, accidental offsides, knock-ons and double movements.
Openside Flanker Justin Tipuric is often involved in all these moves for Ospreys and Wales and also makes excellent support runs when teammates break through defensive lines. back him for a try at 5-1.