British and Irish Lions 2017: Jared Payne falls short against Highlanders


In the hours before kick-off in the Lions’ 23-22 defeat by the Highlanders, full-back Stuart Hogg was ruled out of the tour with a fracture to a bone in his face.

His departure handed Jared Payne a chance to stake his claim to the Test full-back slot.

Ultimately he did not do that.

The New Zealand-born Ireland international had a fitful game. He was good in parts – notably putting in an excellent tackle on express train wing Waisake Naholo in the first half – but was indifferent in others, such as knocking on a routine high ball off a second-half kick-off.
Leigh Halfpenny has not set the tour alight so far. The Welshman appeared in a laboured win over the Provincial Barbarians in the tour opener and the 22-16 defeat by the Blues.

But I think, even had Hogg stayed fit, Halfpenny might have been ahead in Warren Gatland’s thinking.

He doesn’t give you any of the X-factor that Hogg would have done. But, on the other hand, he is entirely reliable. He is probably the best goal-kicker in the world and, with Owen Farrell missing another penalty that he would usually slot today, that quality could be vital in the pressure of a Test match.
ou don’t want to take a chance in that department.

He also has outstanding Lions pedigree. He had the Test jersey on the tour of Australia in 2013, played brilliantly and won the man of the series award.

England’s Anthony Watson looked very dangerous in attack when deployed at full-back against the Crusaders after Hogg’s injury.

He has made the biggest impression if the Lions need someone to come on and act as a strike runner from that position.

Liam Williams came onto the tour in great form, but has looked like a rabbit in the headlights so far.

Usually he is low on errors, high on accuracy when playing for his country, but the occasion seems to have got to him.

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