Gatland backs midfield combination

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has backed Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell to nullify the threat of Sonny Bill Williams.

Gatland has picked Sexton at fly-half and Farrell at inside-centre in place of Ben Teo, with some critics feeling the duo might not possess the required physicality to stop Williams.

However, Gatland is confident despite the duo possessing slighter frames than the more bulky Teo, they will manage just fine.

The Lions mentor also believes that the pair will offer a different option on attack as they are good passers of the ball. 

With the All Blacks playing quite narrow and keeping it tight around the fringes, their playmaking abilities could come to the fore should the Lions win the ball back and look to attack.

And Gatland has also hinted that due to predicted inclement weather conditions, the visitors may have to employ more of a tactical kicking game.

"Johnny and Owen haven't started but have had quite a bit of time together," said Gatland of fly-half Sexton and inside centre Farrell.

"It's just given us two ball players and two kicking options at first and second receiver, so we're happy with the mix.

"One concern we might have is that looking at the long-range weather forecast it doesn't look too great for Saturday night.

"And of course defensively we'll have to do a job on Sonny Bill Williams, too.

"He came pretty direct at us and got away a couple of offloads, so it's going to be important we shut him down."

Asked if Sexton and Farrell's slighter frames against the hulking Williams could cause problems, Gatland replied: "No, not at all.

"It is tough for Ben Te'o. He's done really well, carried well for us, defended well, so it's been a tough call for him but he will get some time off the bench.

"So we've made a call on the amount of possession and opportunities we've created. We think we did stress the All Blacks at times last week.

"They got pretty narrow, because they played that way in an attacking perspective, so it does open up some opportunities for us if we get the ball back to attack them as well. And that's why we've gone with the combinations we have.

"We allowed Sonny Bill too much time on the ball last week.

"I can't remember Sonny Bill passing the ball in the game, but he got some good gainline for them, got a couple of good offloads away and got them some front-foot ball.

"So we just need to make sure that our line speed, that's important for us, to stop him being as effective as he was. And we've been working pretty hard on that."

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