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British & Irish Lions New Zealand tour update

Lions to face Highlanders with Sam Warburton as captain

Sam Warburton will captain the Lions for the second time on this Tour as the British & Irish Lions Tour captain will lead his men against the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Tuesday. The British and Irish Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland named a strong side for the fourth game of the New Zealand Tour against the Highlanders. After Saturday’s amazing victory against the Crusaders, the Lions traveled on New Zealand’s south island to Dunedin for the fourth game on Tour in the closed-roof Forsyth Barr Stadium. On Tuesday night they battle the Dunedin-based Super Rugby side looking win to build momentum with the Test series against the All Blacks getting closer.

To date, every member of the 41-man squad has started in one of the first three games. Head Coach Warren Gatland has named a new starting line-up to face the Highlanders. The Lions are undefeated so far on the tour. “At this stage of the Tour everyone has had a start and as coaches, we are happy that all the players have had a chance to put their hand up and perform in the Lions jersey,” said Gatland. “Each game is a chance for individuals to shine but more importantly it’s about a collective performance. We are building some momentum and we have improved with every game. We were obviously pleased with the win against the Crusaders, especially our defense and game management, but we know the Highlanders will be another massive test for us as a squad.”

British & Irish Lions Squad

15 Jared Payne – Ulster, Ireland, #830
14 Jack Nowell – Exeter Chiefs, England, #828
13 Jonathan Joseph – Bath Rugby, England, #809
12 Robbie Henshaw – Leinster, Ireland, #824
11 Tommy Seymour – Glasgow Warriors, Scotland, #813
10 Dan Biggar – Ospreys, Wales, #821
9 Rhys Webb – Ospreys, Wales, #820
1 Joe Marler – Harlequins, England, #811
2 Rory Best – Ulster, Ireland, #793
3 Kyle Sinckler – Harlequins, England, #814
4 Courtney Lawes – Northampton Saints, England, #826
5 Iain Henderson – Ulster, Ireland, #808
6 James Haskell – Wasps, England, #823
7 Sam Warburton (capt) – Cardiff Blues, Wales, #800
8 CJ Stander – Munster, Ireland, #831

16 Ken Owens – Scarlets, Wales, #829
17 Jack McGrath – Leinster, Ireland, #827
18 Dan Cole – Leicester Tigers, England, #794
19 Alun Wyn Jones – Ospreys, Wales, #761
20 Justin Tipuric – Ospreys, Wales, #786
21 Greig Laidlaw – Gloucester Rugby, Scotland, #810
22 Owen Farrell – Saracens, England, #780
23 Elliot Daly – Wasps, England, #822

The Highlanders were Super Rugby champions in 2015, and go into the match against the Lions with the confidence of 9 wins from their last 10 clashes. Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland chose his squad with Saturday’s upcoming clash against the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua in mind. After a fierce battle in Christchurch on Saturday, Gatland has named a new side for the match against the Highlanders. Tour captain Sam Warburton will return to work to captain the Lions with James Haskell and CJ Stander joining him in the back row. Joe Marler, Rory Best and Kyle Sinckler will return to the front row in the same formation that started the opening fixture against the NZ Provincial Barbarians. Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson will both have their second starts in the second row. Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb are in the pack with Robbie Henshaw and Jonathan Joseph lining up together in midfield. Jared Payne will be at full back, while Tommy Seymour and Jack Nowell are the wingmen. Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, and Dan Cole will be on the bench alongside previous skipper Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric. Greig Laidlaw, Owen Farrell, and Elliot Daly.

“They’ve got the underlining physicality. A lot of physicalities, massive work at the breakdown, very set piece orientated, very big scrum,” said James Haskell about his former team, the Highlanders. Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland talked about his team coming together. “We are building some momentum and we have improved with every game,” said Gatland. “We were obviously pleased with the win against the Crusaders, especially our defense and game management, but we know the Highlanders will be another massive test for us as a squad.” Highlanders Head Coach Scott McLeod commented on the historic opportunity for his side to compete against the British & Irish Lions. “For some of these guys this will be the biggest rugby day of their careers, and it is a special moment in any rugby player’s life to play against the Lions,” said McLeod.

After getting off to a slow start in the 2017 Super Rugby season, the Highlanders have steadily improved under the leadership of new head coach, and all-time top point scorer Tony Brown. Three losses in their opening four fixtures were followed by a run of nine wins in a row. Super Rugby champions in 2015, Brown’s side features five All Blacks to face the Lions. Watch the dangerous duo of Malakai Fekitoa and Waisake Naholo in the back line, and fly-half Lima Sopoaga. Liam Coltman has been named as injury cover in the All Blacks squad for the Test series against the Lions. Dane Colesis may miss at least part of the series. Coltman’s head to head with Rory Best will be key. Ireland captain Best has won over 100 international caps while Coltman won his first All Blacks cap last year against Italy.

Only two of the starting XV against the Highlanders - Rory Best and Sam Warburton – have appeared on a previous Lions Tour. The dynamic duo both went to Australia in 2013. Traveling down to Dunedin at the southern end of the South Island’s eastern coastline, the Lions compete at the impressive 30,000 seater Forsyth Barr Stadium that was built in 2011 for the Rugby World Cup. Forsyth Barr is New Zealand’s only fully covered rugby stadium featuring a transparent roof that keeps the wind and rain out. Since hosting four 2011 Rugby World Cup matches, Forsyth Barr has provided a home for the All Blacks to take on the likes of South Africa, Australia, Wales and England. Currently, Forsyth Barr remains the world’s only permanently covered stadium with a natural turf playing field. Flanker Sam Warburton returns rested to the starting line-up in Dunedin as the Lions look to make it back-to-back wins over two of Super Rugby’s strongest sides.

“Yesterday, I sat in the stands and I was probably more nervous than if I was playing, I was absolutely desperate for us to get a win,” said 28-year-old Warburton. “If we hadn’t of won it would not have been the end of the world, we are still building nicely, but it was really good that we did for momentum. And now all the guys, down at the ground, we can’t wait to cheer them on, to clap them when they come back into the changing room and spend time together, it does feel like an achievement of the 41. That is what special about Lions Tours, and I can see the guys absolutely finish themselves to get that performance and we owe that back to them on Tuesday against the Highlanders. So I am expecting us to move on again and just keep nudging on each game now.”

After giving all of his players a start in the first three games on Tour, Head Coach Warren Gatland is now looking forward to watching his side win at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Tuesday. “They are all big games for everyone now, we knew the first couple of games we felt we were improving,” said Gatland. “It was a big step up in performance, particularly defensively, against the Crusaders. And I think the players for the Highlanders game are well aware of the continuity and momentum that has been created from the Crusaders win and want to continue that. And for them to go out and perform collectively and individually, the challenge is to put us under pressure as coaches for selection for Saturday and then ultimately for the first Test.”

The Highlanders will be without key rugby players Aaron and Ben Smith who are with the All Blacks preparing to take on Samoa this weekend. “I have got no experience of playing the Highlanders, but I remember last year with Wales when we played the Chiefs, which at that point was a depleted Chiefs team, and that was an extremely tough game,” said Warburton. “It doesn’t matter how many games they have lost to injury or the Maori or the All Blacks, we prepare for the best possible Highlanders team and expect as tough an encounter as any of us will face on this Tour.” Buy official, guaranteed British & Irish Lions rugby tickets for the remaining matches on the Lions New Zealand Tour at LiveRugbyTickets.co.uk!

13 Jun Highlanders v British & Irish Lions Tickets Forsyth Barr Stadium Dunedin, New Zealand
17 Jun 2017 Maori All Blacks v British & Irish Lions Tickets Rotorua International Stadium Rotorua, New Zealand
20 Jun 2017 Chiefs v British & Irish Lions Tickets FMG Stadium Waikato Hamilton, New Zealand
24 Jun 2017 New Zealand v British & Irish Lions Tickets Eden Park Auckland, New Zealand
27 Jun 2017 Hurricanes v British & Irish Lions Tickets Westpac Stadium Wellington, New Zealand
1 Jul 2017 New Zealand v British & Irish Lions Tickets Westpac Stadium Wellington, New Zealand
8 Jul 2017 New Zealand v British & Irish Lions Tickets Eden Park Auckland, New Zealand

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