John Smit heads up British Lions-NZ TV panel

The Lions captain insisted he has already acclimatised to the time zone and is ready for Saturday's tour opener against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei.

Warren Gatland believes his British and Irish Lions can ambush an unsuspecting New Zealand public in the fast-approaching Test series against the All Blacks.

"I think it would be unlikely he's going to get through enough (work) before next week for him to come into contention for selection", Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd told reporters, of Coles' chances of facing the Chiefs.

In '71 I had my club and country No. 8, Mervyn Davies, beside me - we actually shared a flat in London and knew each other inside out - but having Peter Dixon or Derek Quinnell on the blindside instead of Dai Morris required some serious readjustment.

"I see the tour in two parts: everything up to the Maori game and then everything post that".

"The advantage of the team we have selected is that the players were together in the first week in Wales", Gatland said on Thursday. The team includes three national captains: Warburton, Rory Best of Ireland and Greig Laidlaw of Scotland.

Meanwhile, Reece alongside Lions coach Warren Gatland's son Bryn will start at fly half.

The Lions will also play all five Super Rugby teams, the Māori All Blacks and three tests against the All Blacks.

He said he'd done his homework ahead of Saturday's clash, including watching Gatland Jr's performance for North Harbour in last year's provincial championship final win over Otago, where he kicked a late-drop goal to secure a 17-14 victory. "It's a great opportunity for the starting 15 and the whole match squad to lay down a marker and get the tour off to a good start".

It is important week this first one.

"James Haskell is a good player, he knows New Zealand well, he's played Super Rugby, and after missing out the first time he'll be keen to show he should have been picked in the first place".

Now I can not see a shadow Test team taking the field until the following weekend which means they will have just one more game to consolidate or tweak those all important combinations.

"But it's not supposed to be easy when you come down here, and it's not going to be, so it's a case of getting down to it".

He said the Barbarians, widely regarded as the weakest team the Lions will face on their 10-match tour, would not be intimidated by their star-studded opponents. There is a significant role to be played here by those Irishmen who were on the winning side against New Zealand in Chicago past year, and more generally there is the need for at least one player to produce the sort of swagger that the great Barry John had in 1971.

  • Julie Sanders