Clashes that will matter in third Test in Auckland

Conor Murray scored in the Lions' second Test victory
Conor Murray scored in the Lions' second Test victory

As the British and Irish Lions and New Zealand face each other for one final time this season in Auckland, we take a look on few of the key battles that might very well decide the result.


All Blacks playmaker Barrett has experienced something of a testing series so far, being moved to full-back in the first Test when Ben Smith was injured, then missing three kickable penalties during the second Test defeat, although he did land seven shots at goal. A world-class display might just be around the corner, but in Ireland star Sexton, the Lions possess a fly-half good enough to mix it with the best, and his midfield partnership alongside Owen Farrell six days ago operated impressively. Barrett and Sexton are both capable of bossing it.

AARON SMITH (New Zealand) v CONOR MURRAY (Lions)

Scrum-half Smith was a dominant figure in the All Blacks' first Test win, proving pivotal to how New Zealand played. He was then sometimes left a frustrated figure in Wellington, infuriated by the 14-man All Blacks' failure to capitalise on defensive space. Murray, a Wellington try-scorer, barely put a foot wrong at the Westpac Stadium, and the scrum-half battle is arguably also a contest to anoint currently the world's best number nine.


Lock Retallick's remarkable strike-rate in New Zealand colours has seen him experience just three defeats during a 63-cap career. He is a complete forward, superb in the set-piece rudiments, a physical force around the field and with the handling and passing skills of a threequarter. Itoje, though, is the northern hemisphere's equivalent, with no obvious weaknesses in his game. Aged just 22, his career has already seen him win more trophies and honours than most players could ever contemplate, and the bigger the occasion, the better he seems to perform. Retallick versus Itoje is top of the bill material.


All Blacks skipper Read will become the seventh New Zealand player to win 100 Test caps when he runs out at Eden Park. He was inspirational during the first Test, and then almost dragged 14 men to victory in Wellington a week later. He rarely makes a mistake, but the same can be said of Lions number eight Faletau, whose consistency puts him up there in Read's company among the world's leading back-row forwards. Both players are hugely-influential, and it will be no surprise if one of them does something decisive on Saturday.