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Race tightens for Lions locking berth

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 28/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly

Lock Iain Henderson hopes his yellow card against the Hurricanes won't rule him out of the most competitive race for a British and Irish Lions Test jersey.

Coach Warren Gatland's team for the second Test against the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday is expected to mirror that which lost the opener 30-15 in Auckland last week.

The exception is at lock, where Alun Wyn Jones and George Kruis are both under threat after being thoroughly out-pointed by New Zealand counterparts Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock at Eden Park.

Test reserve Maro Itoje, the youngest player on tour, is considered a strong start to chance but Gatland will also find it hard to ignore the case for both Henderson and Courtney Lawes.

Irishman Henderson's ball carrying has become a force as the tour has progressed, going to a new level during the midweek team's 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

However, the 25-year-old wonders if he has damaged his chances with a late yellow card for a tip tackle on Jordie Barrett which helped the home side level the scores through two converted tries.

"It was frustrating, stupid. Probably a bit of mis-timed rucking, I would describe it as," he said, admitting it had been a good night before then.

"I was lucky with a few bounces of the ball and stuff. I got a bit of ball in hand, but it was probably overshadowed by the silliness of the yellow card."

Henderson has appeared in six of the eight tour matches, level with Scottish halfback Greig Laidlaw for the most.

Gatland singled out Henderson and Lawes for praise for their efforts against the Hurricanes.

Lawes was taken off with nearly half an hour remaining, suggesting he could have the inside running on a Test promotion.

The tough Englishman was reading nothing into it.

"I've got no idea, honestly. I just did everything I could, it's not up to me any more," he said.

"I wanted to stay on because the game was tightening up a bit and you never want to come off in those circumstances.

"I am feeling confident if I do get called up. I'll lay it on the line like I always do."

In the wake of the Chiefs' loss to the Lions last week, former All Blacks forward Liam Messam described Lawes as "an absolute beast".

That will be music to the ears of Gatland who has singled out a lack of physicality in the first Test as the main reason for their defeat.

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