Borders rugby stars to start for the Lions

The British and Irish Lions opening match of their tour of New Zealand against the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday will be keenly watched for many reasons, but for captain Sam Warburton it will be more about shaking out the cobwebs. "The nice thing is that players are going to get an opportunity to face the haka on more than one occasion".

Damian Saunders, strategy & commercial director at Sky Business, says: "Both the ICC Champions Trophy and England's opening Test match against South Africa coincide with the rugby as PGA Tour golf, so there really is lots on offer to help landlords put on bumper summer weekends of sport for their customers".

The New Zealand Provincial Barbarians match marks the start of the 2017 tour, with the hosts fielding a side drawn from the length and breadth of the country.

"In my career I've always been told to calm down, but when I met up with England, Eddie was telling me to get more angry". He has also indicated that he would not be concerned if the Lions were to lose matches outside the tests.

Captain Sam Warburton will play in the tour opener, the first of 10 fixtures Gatland's men will play in New Zealand.

The All Blacks have "plenty of room" for improvement and have not reached their potential, coach Steve Hansen said ahead of a three-Test series against the British and Irish Lions.

"I know the players that were involved with Graham Henry in 2001, he lost half the team on day one because he went, "you guys over here and you guys over there".

Coach Warren Gatland, his 41 players and phalanx of support staff touched down at Auckland Airport shortly after midday on Wednesday.

Playing Farrell as an inside centre in tandem with Sexton or Biggar, as he has done for England alongside George Ford, is another path for Gatland to take and he said: "We'll see what happens on the weekend".

"The Lions is once every 12 years - it could easily be the biggest occasion I'll ever get to play in, so I've got to treat it like that and enjoy it. The guys are fresh, ready to go and in a good place". "Our team are looking forward to being amongst the first Kiwis to welcome the army of Lions supporters that will be arriving over the next few weeks".

Warburton also said jet lag would not be an excuse for any shortcomings on Saturday, and pointed out that with an 11-month-old child he's had more sleep in the last three nights than much of the a year ago.

Players with full-time Super Rugby contracts were out of bounds. The former Ireland schools player is now qualified by residency to play for New Zealand.

Tattooed Maori warriors performed a haka to greet the composite team of elite players from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, marking the start of the almost six-week tour.

  • Zachary Reyes