New Zealand to take on British and Irish Lions

Tom MarkLast Update : Friday 23 June 2017 - 6:25 PM
New Zealand to take on British and Irish Lions
Peter O'Mahony
New Zealand v British and Irish Lions, first Test
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: Saturday, 24 June Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Scrum-half Conor Murray says Saturday’s first Test against New Zealand is the biggest game of his career – this is surely the case for every British and Irish Lions player.

By common consent, the Lions have to win the tour opener to give them a chance of emulating the greats of 1971.

The improvement made by the tourists over the past few weeks has given the thousands of travelling supporters genuine hope.

But the All Blacks, who are the world champions, have not lost at Eden Park since 1994.

Conor Murray<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

Team news

For the first time since 1930, the Lions tour captain has been left out of the starting XV, with Peter O’Mahony leading the side instead of Sam Warburton.

Meanwhile head coach Warren Gatland has rolled the dice in his back three, with Elliot Daly and Liam Williams – who both started against the Chiefs in midweek – making late darts into the Test team.

Alun Wyn Jones<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

Despite a virtuoso individual performance against the Maori, English lock Maro Itoje has to make do with a place on the bench, with the experienced Welshman Alun Wyn Jones – the last man to captain the Lions in a Test – preferred alongside George Kruis.

Gatland’s counterpart Steve Hansen has also sprung the odd surprise, dropping the prolific Julian Savea for the rookie Rieko Ioane on the wing. Ioane has already played twice against the Lions on this tour, scoring for the Blues.


Although Gatland insists his side will play “bold and courageous rugby”, taking New Zealand on at their own game would be lunacy.

Instead the Lions are likely to use the template that so successfully suffocated the Crusaders and Maori: an imposing rush defence, an aggressive and slick set-piece, and an accurate kicking game.

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By winning the territorial battle and the gainline, the Lions should create opportunities as a result, and this is where the likes of Williams, Daly and Watson can provide the ruthless edge that has been missing at times on this tour.

However the Lions play, keeping up intensity, discipline and accuracy for 80 minutes is a non-negotiable.

What they say:

Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “Let’s get excited about what could be a fantastic series. Let’s let the rugby do the talking because there’s been enough trash talking already.”

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen: “I’m cool, calm and excited. Worrying is a waste of emotion.”


10: Number of Lions in the 23 who were involved in the series-clinching win over Australia in 2013.

23: Number of years since New Zealand lost to France at Eden Park, their last defeat at the venue.

358: Number of international caps on the Lions bench, compared to 216 on New Zealand’s.

What do the locals say?

“Result is all that matters. There are no bonus points for beautiful rugby or style.” – Wynne Gray in the New Zealand Herald.

Patrick McKendry<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

Social media:

“What an achievement for ‪@peterom6 .Follows in the footsteps of greats like Johnston, O’Driscoll and O’Connell. Cork will be rocking on Sat.” @RonanOGara10 is delighted for his old Munster team-mate.


New Zealand: B Smith; I Dagg, R Crotty, SB Williams, R Ioane; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, S Cane, K Read (capt).

Replacements: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden/L Sopoaga, A Lienert-Brown.

British and Irish Lions: L Williams (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te’o (England), E Daly (England); O Farrell (England), C Murray (Ireland); M Vunipola (England), J George (England), T Furlong (Ireland); AW Jones (Wales), G Kruis (England); P O’Mahony (capt, Ireland), S O’Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), M Itoje (England), S Warburton (Wales), R Webb (Wales), J Sexton (Ireland), L Halfpenny (Wales).

Lions tour fixtures
3 June Provincial Barbarians Won 13-7
7 June Blues Lost 22-16
10 June Crusaders Won 12-3
13 June Highlanders Lost 23-22
17 June Maori All Blacks Won 32-10
20 June Chiefs Won 34-6
24 June New Zealand
27 June Hurricanes
1 July New Zealand
8 July New Zealand

Source: world bbc

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