Jared Payne ruled out of Lions' opening fixture
- Author: Julie Sanders Jun 02, 2017,
Jun 02, 2017, 23:36
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Coles has not played since suffering a head issue in March, and is now a doubt to be ready for the Hurricanes' Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs on Friday, June 9.
There have been attempts to gloss over it recently but that tour can not lose the tag of being the worst tour in the history "Blackwash: The inside story of the worst Lions tour ever" was the headline in the Sunday Times only a week ago.
13 - The Lions biggest test-winning margin against the All Blacks. Although they have their fair share of brilliant players it is their exceptional team ethic that explains the success of the All Blacks - and it is also what separates the great Lions successes in 1971, 1974, 1989, 1997 and 2013 from their less illustrious tours.
All three Scottish tourists - Greig Laidlaw, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg - are selected and, despite never having started a Test match for England, rookie prop Kyle Sinckler is in the front row.
But many eyes will be on Sexton's opposite man.
In his column in The Guardian Evans appeared to overstate Kiwi confidence, given Saturday night's tour opener has the Lions paying $1.01 for victory, while the cobbled-together Provincial Barbarians are massive outsiders at $15.
Vunipola's absence means that the 2017 Lions have had an early lesson in how they are going to have to adapt and improvise, finding ways to knock New Zealand onto the back foot throughout the tour irrespective of the hardships they face. Owen Farrell, Justin Tipuric and former New Zealand U-20 global, Jared Payne, all start as replacements.
Asked if the Lions can shock the whole country of New Zealand, Gatland said: "That's hopefully the whole plan".
"We are all hugely excited about the first game on tour", Gatland said. That allowed the players not just to get to know each other but to form real lasting friendships - there is still a bond that comes from knowing we achieved something very special whenever we meet. "The guys are fresh, ready to go and in a good place".
"Sometimes with the Celtic nations, we don't have that luxury and the thing that's exciting about the Lions is that you can have a real impact with players coming off the bench to make a difference and match, potentially, when the All Blacks make their changes".
Replacements: 16-Andrew Makalio, 17-Tolu Fahamokoia, 18-Marcel Renata, 19-Matt Matich, 20-Peter Rowe, 21-Richard Judd, 22-Jonah Lowe, 23-Junior Ngaluafe.