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Monday, June 19, 2017

LIONS WATCH: Ben Te’o the unlikely hero

Ireland and Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony was voted man of the match by the Sky Sports poll for the win against the Maori All Blacks on Saturday, however England’s Ben Te’o also deserves credit for his direct running and strong carries at inside centre.

Despite only switching to rugby union in 2014 from NRL side South Sydney Rabbitohs, the England international made 72 meters on Saturday – more than any other player on the pitch.

The 30-year-old’s 13 carries made him joint top in this category and he also beat four defenders, made three offloads and one clean break while not missing a single tackle in the full 80 minutes.

Finally, after five matches Warren Gatland has found an effective centre partnership with Te’o and Wales’ Jonathan Davies at outside centre.

The Welshman’s stats were very similar to Teo’s. He won three meters fewer than the Worcester Warriors centre but also made a clean break and beat five defenders.

All Blacks centres Sonny Bill-Williams and Anton Lienert-Brown impressed against Samoa last week but if Te’o and Davies run sharp angles and offer support lines beyond the New Zealand defence they could be a threat - especially playing outside either Jonathan Sexton or Owen Farrell who can both play on the gain line.

Gatland has decided to select Irish duo Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne for Tuesday’s game against the Chiefs.

But unless the pair produce world class performances or untimely injuries kick in, it looks as though the Lions have a promising centre partnership for the opening Test against the All Blacks.

WATCH: Maori All Blacks vs Lions Highlights

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