Jack Nowell has challenged the British and Irish Lions to go for the jugular against New Zealand on Saturday.
England wing Nowell plundered two tries in Tuesday’s 34-6 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton to catapult himself into late contention for a role in the first All Blacks Test.
The Exeter flyer could struggle to push past George North, Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly for a place on Saturday, but his return to form against the Chiefs means he could well feature later in the Test series.
The Lions ran in some classy tries against the Chiefs as their backline finally clicked – and Nowell has insisted the Lions must bid to repeat that feat against the All Blacks.
Asked if the Lions must transfer the attacking display from the Chiefs into Saturday’s Test opener, Nowell replied: “I think we’ve got to; if you let any New Zealand team, let alone the All Blacks, play rugby, they’re going to really play.
“They’re going to chuck the ball around a lot, they’re going to try to get around you, they’re going to try all sorts.
If you let any New Zealand team, let alone the All Blacks, play rugby, they’re going to really play. They’re going to chuck the ball around a lot, they’re going to try to get around you, they’re going to try all sorts.Jack Nowell
“So something with what Andy Farrell does with us in our defence is about putting teams under massive pressure.
“And then when we do get chances we’ve got to take them, they are very rare in these sorts of games, but when you get the opportunities you’ve got to take them.”
Nowell insisted the Lions’ stylish play in the comprehensive Chiefs win was only a matter of time, as the tourists continue to build connections.
The Lions’ midweek side had lost out to the Blues and the Highlanders, so were delighted to make amends at Hamilton’s FMG Stadium.
“I’ve not done anything different, the team’s not done anything different, we just know if we build phases hopefully we can get on the end of them,” said Nowell.
“For us it’s about keeping the ball and not giving away penalties.
“I’m still doing the same work off the ball, I’m still looking for it always.
“Sometimes in the last few games it just doesn’t come your way, but we’ve worked well on it this week and that’s the key element – keep penalties down and build phases.
“We knew it would come. Our phase play in training has been awesome.
“But the main thing you need for that is the ball.”
Nowell hailed Lions boss Warren Gatland’s faith in handing his flair players free rein to attack where they see fit.
All Blacks boss Steve Hansen has continually predicted a prosaic style from the Lions, but Nowell’s revelations indicate how keen Gatland is for the tourists to find a fluent front-foot stride.
“Warren’s a very respected man, he doesn’t talk often but when he does everyone listens,” said Nowell. “The most pleasing thing for is that Warren has said to me ‘you’ve got free licence, we don’t want you on the wing, go off and do whatever you want, do what you do for Exeter’.
“For a coach to say that for a winger like myself it’s very pleasing to hear.
“It hasn’t happened for me in the first two games, but it’s happened against the Chiefs.”
New Zealand, meanwhile, look set for a major pre-Test series boost with captain Kieran Read on course to face the British and Irish Lions in Saturday’s Eden Park opener.
Read’s injury-hit year began with a wrist problem, while the latest setback – a broken thumb – has ruled him out since late April.
But the 97-cap No 8 looks set to return this weekend, with All Blacks team-mate Sam Whitelock and assistant coach Ian Foster leading acclaim for a player whose impact on the Lions series could prove considerable.
“This whole year, Kieran has had bad luck through injury and he has been adding to the team, with the Crusaders and here (with the All Blacks),” said lock Whitelock.
“Even though he hasn’t been out there on the field, it has been great having him driving those things.
“Now he is hopefully ready to go, he will hopefully bring that Kieran Read way of playing.
“He will lead from the front, and it is awesome when he does that and he plays great rugby when he is being himself and taking the lead.
“He has always targeted this game to get back. He has had time to get his head around it, and he has been working really hard with the trainer and physios to get right for this game. When he gets that opportunity, he will take it with both hands.”
Head coach Steve Hansen will announce his starting line-up for the opening Lions clash on Wednesday evening, UK time, and Read looks set to be in it.
“He didn’t want to miss it (the first Test),” added Foster. “He is desperate to play. He is our leader, so that’s natural.
“To have Reado back would be a real boost for us.”