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Aviva Premiership Rugby stars gear up for second Lions Test

Aviva Premiership Rugby stars gear up for second Lions Test

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Eight Aviva Premiership Rugby players will line-up for The British & Irish Lions on Saturday as the tourists look to level the series against New Zealand.

The All Blacks were mightily impressive in the opening Test, winning 30-15 at Eden Park to preserve their immense record at a ground where they have not lost since 1994.

But Saturday’s Test takes place in Wellington and the Lions will be confident they can snatch victory after encouraging signs in the opening Test as they look to take the series to a decider next week.


Head Coach Warren Gatland has made three changes to his side, with Tour captain Sam Warburton brought in at blindside flanker – replacing Peter O’Mahony.

Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton comes into the side, with Owen Farrell moving to inside centre at the expense of Worcester Warriors’ Ben Te’o.

Saracens lock Maro Itoje replaces club colleague George Kruis, with Northampton Saints forward Courtney Lawes is brought onto the replacements bench.

Saracens duo Mako Vunipola and Jamie George retain their place in the front row, while Bath Rugby’s Taulupe Faletau starts at No.8.

There is an all-Aviva Premiership Rugby back three, with Bath’s Anthony Watson and Wasps’ Elliot Daly either side of incoming Saracens full-back Liam Williams.

Exeter Chiefs’ winger Jack Nowell is also drafted onto the replacements bench and will become the club’s first-ever Lion if he comes on.


Warren Gatland on the size of the task in front of his side:

“It is a big challenge for us, as coaches and players we know that the series is on the line. A lot of the players have spoken about it being the biggest match of their careers.”

Prop Mako Vunipola is ready to rumble:

“We are very lucky we have another opportunity, now it’s up to us to take it.

“We are going into this game wounded, with a bit of pride on the line and hopefully that will give us the edge tomorrow.

“But I know emotionally we will be ready for it, we have to be but it is just about having that discipline alongside it.

“For us it is the emotional energy that we have to bring, we know the task in front of us is immense but it is about us as a forward pack sticking together as a collective.”


New Zealand have made two injury-enforced changes to their starting XV after the first Test.

Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty are both out with injury so in comes Waisake Naholo on the right wing with Israel Dagg moving to full-back while Anton Lienert-Brown comes into midfield.

Crusaders quartet Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody and Sam Whitelock are joined by Brodie Retallick in the tight five in a familiar looking pack.

The back row of Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane and skipper Kieran Read remains with Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett the half-back pairing.

Sonny Bill Williams and Lienert-Brown link up in midfield, while Dagg and Naholo are joined by two-try hero from the first Test Rieko Ioane in the back three. The one change to the bench sees uncapped Ngani Laumape brought in as cover for the outside backs.

HEAD TO HEAD: Owen Farrell v Sonny Bill Williams

Owen Farrell has proved on countless occasions that he is a quality Test centre, but he faces perhaps the biggest test of his time at 12 in Sonny Bill Williams.

The powerful rugby league convert is almost impossible to stop on his day, with bulldozing runs and silky offloads causing havoc in midfield.

Farrell is a sharp defender but lacks Williams’ size, although that is yet to hamper him with England since Eddie Jones’ arrival two years ago.

Gatland will be hoping Farrell can cause most damage going forward, and his partnership with Sexton will be intriguing – with the pair hinting at a blossoming relationship earlier on Tour.


The Lions have come from behind to win a three-Test series twice in their history – in 1989 and 1899.

The All Blacks have not lost in Wellington since England visited there in 2003 but this Lions starting XV side contains eight Test Lions who were in the 23 that saw off the Wallabies in the decider four years ago.


The Westpac Stadium – nicknamed the ‘Cake Tin’ – opened its doors in 2000 as it replaced the historic Athletic Park, the scene of memorable Lions victories over the All Blacks in 1971 and 1993.

Built at a cost of NZ$130 million with a capacity of 34,500, it is a multi-purpose venue and is home to the Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise and the Wellington Mitre 10 Cup team, while it has also hosted the Welllington Sevens, as part of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

It also hosts football, with Wellington Phoenix of the Australian A-League calling it home since 2008, and cricket, with the Wellington Firebirds taking part in New Zealand’s T20 competition.

The list of sports doesn’t stop there as six rugby league internationals have taken place on its turf, including the 2014 Four Nations final, while it is also a major concert venue.


Jerome Garcès is the man in the middle for the second Test, the Frenchman taking charge of his second game on this Tour after also refereeing the Lions’ win over the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Jaco Peyper, referee in the first Test, is a touch judge alongside Romain Poite, who will take charge of the third and final encounter. The TMO is Australian George Ayoub.


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.

To keep up to date with all the latest news, scores, tables and fixtures faster than ever before, as well as for access to video content including match highlights, make sure you download the Premiership Rugby app. Click here for more information

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