History beckons for the British & Irish Lions in Auckland with 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby stars named in Warren Gatland’s squad for the final Test.
Fans from across the home nations will be glued to their TV screens on Saturday morning as the Lions bid for a first test series win in New Zealand since 1971.
Saracens’ fly-half Owen Farrell kicked 14 points for the Lions in Wellington to help them level the series, including the match-winning penalty.
Gatland’s starting XV will once more be made up of eight Aviva Premiership Rugby players as the Lions look to make history at Eden Park by being the first to beat New Zealand there for 23 years.
Saracens’ pair of Mako Vunipola and Jamie George start in the front row alongside Tadhg Furlong with clubmate Maro Itoje in the engine room with Alun Wyn Jones.
Try-scorer in Wellington, Bath Rugby’s Taulupe Faletau is retained at No. 8 with captain Sam Warburton and Sean O’Brien completing the pack.
It’s an all-Irish half-back partnership with Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton while Farrell is at inside centre with Jonathan Davies outside him.
England wingers Elliot Daly of Wasps and Bath Rugby’s Anthony Watson both start with new Saracens arrival Liam Williams retaining his place at full-back.
Harlequins’ Kyle Sinckler, Northampton Saints’ Courtney Lawes are among the replacements with Worcester Warriors’ Ben Te’o and Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell.
— British&Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 5, 2017
WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING
Saracens Jamie George on his expectations for the game:
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic occasion on Saturday and one again that we’ll never forget. We can’t get carried away with the emotional side of the game.
“We’ve got to make sure that physically we are on it, mentally we are on it, we know our stuff and we can go into the game with clear heads and really attack it.
“Sometimes you can maybe get overawed by the whole occasion and think about making history and the rest of it. We can’t think about that, we have to think about play by play, minute by minute.”
Head coach Warren Gatland on the prospect of a historic win:
“For a group of players, there is no doubt – we haven’t spoken about it yet but maybe we will in the next 24 hours – they have an opportunity to leave a bit of a legacy,” he said.
“This is an opportunity that we haven’t had since 1971, I think there have been 11 Tours to New Zealand and the Lions have only won one.
“You get those moments in your life and you don’t want those moments to pass you by, that is what big occasions and big sporting events are about.
“You have got to be excited, it is a pressure that you relish. This is what you do all the training, you want those moments and sometimes they don’t come around that often.”
Congrats to them all & good luck! 💪 pic.twitter.com/m4JK5nvBLn
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) July 6, 2017
Ngani Laumape will fill the void left by Sonny Bill Williams at inside centre after he was given a four week ban for a head-high challenge on Anthony Watson last Saturday.
And after the shock defeat last weekend, Steven Hansen has shuffled the pack as he hands Jordie Barrett his first start for the All Blacks at full-back and will play with his older brother Beauden, who starts at fly-half.
Israel Dagg will shift to the right wing with Julian Savea returning on the left with captain and number Kieran Read will win his 100th cap at number eight.
The pack remains the same for a third Test running, with the four Crusaders of Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody and Sam Whitelock joined by Brodie Retallick in the tight five.
HEAD TO HEAD – Jordie Barrett v Liam Williams
New Saracens full-back Williams will be looking to put the pressure on an All Black on debut in the form of Jordie Barrett.
Williams has really grown into this Lions Tour and is clearly a prospect that will excite the Saracens fans heading into the new season.
First though, there’s the small matter of a Lions tour to win and Williams will be looking to replicate his performance against the Chiefs which went along way to securing his Test place.
The British and Irish Lions have only won two series deciders in their history and they both came against Australia, in 1989 and 2013 respectfully.
The last series decider the tourists faced in New Zealand was in 1993 where they were defeated 30-31 at Eden Park.
— Worcester Warriors🏉 (@WorcsWarriors) July 5, 2017
WHERE IS IT BEING PLAYED?
The Lions have already sampled Eden Park, losing to the Blues and the All Blacks on this Tour.
The home of New Zealand rugby was founded in 1900 and is the country’s largest and most iconic ground.
The first Lions Test in Auckland was in 1908 at Potter’s Park, and 22 years later the men in red made their Eden Park bow.
The stadium has hosted several large events, including the 1992 Cricket World Cup and 2011 Rugby World Cup final – where New Zealand edged past France to claim the title.
Roman Poite will take charge of the British and Irish Lions’ crucial third and final Test against New Zealand on Saturday.
The Frenchman refereed the final game of the tour to Australia in 2013 when a 41-16 victory over the Wallabies sealed a 2-1 series win. He was also the man in the middle for the warm-up game against the Hurricanes earlier in the current tour, which ended in an enthralling 31-31 draw.
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