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Lions ready for battle on eve of All Blacks Test

Lions ready for battle on eve of All Blacks Test

After months of waiting and weeks of build-up, The British & Irish Lions are ready to face the toughest challenge in world rugby tomorrow as they prepare to play New Zealand in the first Test match of this eagerly-awaited series.

The Lions have may have struggled early on Tour, but they have gradually warmed to the task nicely – with a thumping 34-6 win against the Chiefs on Tuesday sending a firm warning to the All Blacks.

And now they hope to become the first side since France in 1994 to beat New Zealand at Eden Park, their fortress in Auckland.

TEAM NEWS

There is a strong Aviva Premiership Rugby presence in the squad for the opening Test – with eight set to start and two more on the replacements bench.

Four of those are in the backs, with Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell hoping to lead from the front.

Alongside him at inside centre is Worcester Warriors powerhouse Ben Te’o, while on the wings are Wasps’ Elliot Daly and Bath Rugby’s Anthony Watson. Saracens-bound Liam Williams completes the back three.


Up front, it is all about grunt – with Saracens duo Mako Vunipola and Jamie George, who follows in the footsteps of Jason Robinson in making his first Test start in Lions red.

Behind them is a familiar face in Saracens lock George Kruis, while Bath’s Taulupe Faletau starts in the back row.

Maro Itoje and Kyle Sinckler are ready to come off the replacements bench.

WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING

Jamie George is not daunted by the size of the task the Lions face:

“I have started a lot of big games, European finals, Premiership finals, I am comfortable starting big games,” he said.

“My aspiration as soon as I made the plane was to start the first Test, to put in performances that would get me selected, Gats has shown a lot of confidence in that and I am very honoured and happy to get selected.

“I definitely didn’t see myself as an understudy (on Tour), I just wanted to learn as much as possible.

“It’s great to be selected, it’s a huge honour and something that when I look back on I will be very proud of in 10, 20 years’ time.”

Warren Gatland on how to beat the All Blacks:

“The message to the players before we came out to New Zealand was that to play the All Blacks you have to be bold and take risks.

“Yes we are playing to a structure as every team does, but we have been giving the confidence to the players to bring in an offloading game when it’s appropriate.”

KEY STAT
The Lions have won just one series in New Zealand, all the way back in 1971.

REFEREE

Jaco Peyper takes charge of his second game on this Tour, after taking the whistle in Rotorua last weekend as the Lions beat the Maori All Blacks.

His touch judges are Jérôme Garcès and Romain Poite – who will referee the second and third Tests respectively – while Ian Smith is the TMO.

WHERE TO WATCH?

Every game of the Tour will be shown on Sky Sports 1 at 8:35AM BST (7:35PM local time) in New Zealand and live on Radio on Talk Sport.

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