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British & Irish Lions v New Zealand All Blacks

Peter O'Mahony to Captain Lions against New Zealand


Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony will lead out the British and Irish Lions in the first Test against the mighty New Zealand rugby team in Auckland on Saturday. The Lions play three Tests against the world champions. As you may expect, there is plenty of reaction to Lions manager Warren Gatland's starting XV to face New Zealand at Eden Park. To date, the Lions have won four and lost two of their warm-up matches on the tour of New Zealand. Warren Gatland will coach his Lions side against his homeland as they face the All Blacks  The British and Irish Lions will face the All Blacks for the first time in 12 years when the two sides collide at Eden Park in Auckland in what will be the first of three Tests, with the Lions bent on avenging their 3-0 whitewash in 2005. After embarking on their 10-match tour of New Zealand, Gatland’s side will be fully prepared when they meet the reigning world champions, having lined up all five of the New Zealand Super Rugby teams as part of their warm-up plans. As well as those five sides, the Lions have played the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and the Maori All Blacks.

Gatland faced his toughest decision of the Lions New Zealand tour as he chose his side with the Lions’ battle against the All Blacks just days away. Gatland would not reveal his thought process behind his Test selection to face the All Blacks, and would not give any hints away with the All Blacks just around the corner. Ireland’s blind-side flanker Peter O'Mahony, who emerged as a late contender for Lions captain, is picked ahead of tour captain Sam Warburton who will start on the bench as Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau make up the back row. Liam Williams and Elliot Daly are given Test starts. Anthony Watson starts on the right wing, with Daly picked ahead of George North on the left and Leigh Halfpenny starts on the bench. Owen Farrell has recovered from his quad injury to take his place at fly-half.

During this year's Six Nations, Peter O'Mahony did not look fit to go on the Lions tour. A knee injury had kept him out for almost a year after the 2015 World Cup. The 27-year-old only started one game for Ireland this season after Jamie Heaslip got injured in the warm-up before Ireland's final match against England, O'Mahony got the nod. He went on to win man of the match as Ireland beat England to deny Eddie Jones' side a second successive Grand Slam. Two warm-up defeats caused the Lions to receive criticism on the New Zealand tour, however they have also won their two hardest matches against the Crusaders and the Maori. Gatland’s Test team against New Zealand is causing optimism that the Lions will be worthy opponents for the All Blacks. Twenty-seven-year-old O'Mahony was not chosen for Ireland in this year's Six Nations tournament due to a long-term knee injury.O’Mahony’s only Six Nations start came when he was recalled for Ireland’s final match against England after Jamie Heaslip was injured in the warm-up. Munster’s O'Mahony was named Man of the Match as Ireland beat Eddie Jones' England side to deny them a second successive Six Nations Grand Slam. O’Mahony captained the British & Irish Lions in Saturday's win against the Maori All Blacks in the final tour match before the opening Test. O’Mahony was impressive in the back row alongside Taulupe Faletau and Sean O'Brien.

Gatland was asked why he chose O’Mahone. "It's a reward for how the back row has gone. There is a nice balance there," replied Gatland, who named the same trio for the Test. "Peter has done a good job." England's Maro Itoje, the youngest player on tour, will be on the bench as experienced lock Alun Wyn Jones is preferred by Gatland in the second-row. Wales flanker and tour captain Sam Warburton will be on the bench at Eden Park. Wales’ Liam Williams and England's Elliot Daly are included in the back three, alongside Englishman, Anthony Watson. The second Test takes place in Wellington on Saturday, 1 July, before the teams return to Eden Park on Saturday, 8 July. Buy authentic, legal, guaranteed British & Irish Lions rugby tickets now securely online from LiveRugbyTickets.co.uk! The Lions will aim to become the first team to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park since 1994. 

New Zealand tour captain Sam Warburton struggled with a minor ankle problem on the tour, but returned to captain the Lions in their defeat by the Highlanders before coming off the bench against the Maori All Blacks. Former Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones was chosen over England's Maro Itoje in the second row. Hooker Jamie George has 17 caps for England will start ahead of Ireland's Rory Best and Wales' Ken Owens. George, England's Mako Vunipola and Tadhg Furlong of Ireland will again be in the front row. England fly-half Owen Farrell, returning from thigh injury was picked to start ahead of Ireland's Johnny Sexton. Irishman Conor Murray partners with Farrell at half-back. Ben Te'o will start at inside-centre and Wales' Jonathan Davies at outside centre. "We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up," said New Zealander Gatland. "To beat the All Blacks you have to be courageous and play some rugby. You have to score tries and we have picked a team capable of doing that."

New Zealand squad picked by Steve Hansen. "This was a really tough team to pick. There were a number of players in great form vying for positions," said All Blacks manager Steve Hansen. "They've both been on target to return for this game all the way through, are both in great shape and, together with the rest of the squad, they're really excited at what's ahead of us." Number eight Kieran Read will return from injury to captain New Zealand in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Auckland on Saturday. Read, 31, has not played since April because of a broken thumb. Wing Rieko Ioane will win his 3rd cap. Ryan Crotty partners Sonny Bill Williams in the center. Read, has won 97 caps. Crotty missed world champions New Zealand's 78-0 victory over Samoa on Friday due to a rib injury. Ioane has featured twice against the Lions on this tour, scoring a try in the Blues' victory in Auckland. Aaron Cruden and Lima Sopoaga have been named as fly-half cover.

"I'd also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks. His outstanding form throughout the season this year, including against the Lions, has earned him his start on the wing," continued Hansen. "We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team, probably one of the best to have toured here. We know the importance of this match and we will bring real energy and intensity. It'll be a physical Test but, just as importantly, it will be a mental test."

Squads

British & Irish Lions Squad – Captain Peter O’Mahony

Six Nations champions England provide seven players in the starting British & Irish Lions XV, with four men from Wales and Ireland, There are no Scotland players in the 23-man matchday squad. Peter O'Mahony is the man of the hour having been named skipper after Pete captained the Lions to victory against the Maori All Blacks last weekend. "He's my captain at Munster and his heart is on his sleeve. I don't think there are a lot of leaders like him. I think he's going to make us proud," said O’Mahony’s mate at Munster Stander.

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).

New Zealand All Blacks – Captain Kieran Read

The New Zealand All Blacks announced their side earlier on Wednesday, with number eight Kieran Read named as skipper after returning from injury.

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.

Match Report

Lions 34-5 Chiefs

Warren Gatland’s Lions soundly defeated Chiefs side 34-6 in Hamilton  just three days’ time until their meeting with champions New Zealand. Jack Nowell got a try double with Elliot Daly impressing to give Gatland confidence in his side, going into today’s final selection meeting. Daly was removed after 60 minutes but Gatland would only say that the England international was the only tactical replacement of the night at the FMG Stadium.

"I think the performances have been good. Not everyone agrees with that opinion, " said Gatland. "We are pretty happy with where we are at the moment. The selection meeting will be tough and that’s the way we want it. Guys put up their hands tonight and there will be some healthy debate.The selection meeting will be with all the coaches. The way it always works, I can tell you in the past it's always a consensus of that group. It's never one person's call, it's coaches discussing the options then collectively agreeing on selections. That's exactly what will happen tomorrow. We'll have some lively debate, and then we will all agree on it. It will be us all contributing."

Gatland said Jack Nowell showed an upswing in performance on Tuesday evening. "Someone like Jack Nowell, it just hadn't happened for him in the first couple of games," added Gatland. "But he is a player who is prolific in terms of getting his hands on the ball, and he showed that when he scored his tries. I was pleased to see him play well and I thought Elliot (Daly) looked sharp and Liam (Williams) too. It was a combination that looked pretty dangerous and pretty potent." Nowell stepped up against the Chiefs and was a constant menace to their defence, scoring two tries. The first was a close range effort after Dan Biggar took the ball forward, and the second ended with Biggar darting through flailing Chiefs’ arms. Liam Williams’ offload to Jared Payne for his try. Both players played 80 minutes with Elliot Daly replaced after the hour. Nowell did enough to prove to Gatland that he is worth a shot against the All Blacks. Lawes was one of the Lions' key players against the Chiefs. Owen Farrell will be the starting fly-half against the All Blacks and Johnny Sexton in line to be the No. 10 cover from the bench, Biggar was outstanding for the Lions. In the build up to Nowell's first try, he made a key pass and then made the dart to tee up the score. He kicked well and shifted the Chiefs around. Allan Dell went into action after 13 minutes when Joe Marler was sin-binned and played a key role in winning a scrum penalty. The midweek side made their mark on the 2017 tour at FMG Stadium with a magnificent Lions side commanding a massive 34-6 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton. The Chiefs, without many of their frontline players due to international commitments, were second best in nearly every area of the match as the Lions left their mark on an emotional occasion at Warren Gatland's old stomping ground as they faced an uphill battle to force their way into the Test team for Saturday's game against the All Blacks. This was a key match for the Lions as the tourists continued to build momentum after their triumph over the Maori All Blacks last weekend.

Squads

Chiefs

Shaun Stevenson; Toni Pulu, Tim Nanai-Williams, Johnny Faauli, Solomon Alaimalo; Stephen Donald, Finlay Christie; Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, Liam Polwart, Nepo Laulala; Dominic Bird, Michael Allardyce; Mitchell Brown, Lachlan Boshier, Tin Sanders. Replacements: Hika Elliot, Aidan Ross, Atu Moli, Liam Messam, Mitchell Karpik, Jonathan Taumateine, Luteru Laulala, Chase Tiatia.

British and Irish Lions

Liam Williams; Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Elliot Daly; Dan Biggar, Greig Laidlaw; Joe Marler, Rory Best, Dan Cole; Iain Henderson, Courtney Lawes; James Haskell, Justin Tipuric, CJ Stander. Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Allan Dell, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones, Gareth Davies, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour.

2017 British & Irish Lions Tour Results

New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 7-13 British and Irish Lions, Toll Stadium, 3 June.
Blues 22-16 British and Irish Lions, Eden Park, 7 June.
Crusaders 3-12 British and Irish Lions, AMI Stadium, 10 June.
Highlanders 23-22 British and Irish Lions, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 13 June.
Maori All Blacks 10-32 British and Irish Lions, Rotorua International Stadium, 17 June.
Chiefs 6-34 British and Irish Lions, Waikato Stadium, 20 June.

2017 New Zealand Tour Tickets and Schedule

New Zealand v British and Irish Lions Tickets - first Test, Eden Park, 24 June.
Hurricanes v British and Irish Lions Tickets - Westpac Stadium, 27 June.
New Zealand v British and Irish Lions Tickets - second Test, Westpac Stadium, 1 July.
New Zealand v British and Irish Lions Tickets - third Test, Eden Park, 8 July.