Lions' Owen Farrell in race for fitness to face New Zealand

The England fly-half was due to be on the bench for tomorrow's game against the Maori All Blacks here but suffered a grade one strain to a quadricep muscle yesterday.

"I was only just told about being captain on Saturday, so I need to get that sunk in first", said O'Mahony, when asked if he could lead the Lions' Test side.

New Zealand see the Pacific islanders as a chance to ideal what they learned from watching the Lions in their tour matches, which include a victory against Super Rugby's unbeaten Canterbury Crusaders and defeats to the Auckland Blues and Otago Highlanders.

Farrell was on the bench, possibly to partner Sexton in the second-half playmaker combination which the Lions used against the Crusaders.

Mako Vunipola and club mate Jamie George start in the front row alongside Tadhg Furlong with Maro Itoje and George Kruis in the engine room from the off.

Te'o went to Orewa College and St Paul's in Ponsonby before following the bright lights to Australia, where he played for the Tigers, Broncos and Rabbitohs - as well as Queensland - but is relaxed both about the prospect of facing Sonny Bill Williams next week or, indeed facing the famous black jersey at all.

This week's episode of The Hard Yards sees Stephen Ferris, Kev McLaughlin, Kiwi rugby writer Hamish Bidwell, Ladbrokes' Andy Wildig and host Andy McGeady discussing the underwhelming start to the Lions Tour and New Zealand's relationship with prodigal son Warren Gatland.

"We felt Owen's had a bit of rugby at the moment", he said. "Johnny is one of these guys who's a perfectionist and that's the way he'll want it at the weekend and he knows that everything doesn't go to plan, but he tries to get it there". It's just another opportunity for me to get out there and play.

Farrell has been replaced in the squad for Saturday's game by Dan Biggar, "but the bigger issue is whether he will be sufficiently recovered to play in the first Test against New Zealand at all" Slot adds.

"If you look at the basics of our game, we haven't changed much either from when I took over".

Waburton is among the replacements against the Maori All Blacks as the Lions tour captain plays his way back to match sharpness following injury.

The Maori side had been preparing for the Lions' "aerial attack" since their 27-14 loss to Munster in November a year ago, said Cooper.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen evidently made note of Gatland's comments, as he dragged up the possibility of a Lions squad expansion earlier this week.

Ash Dixon captains the side from hooker as part of a pack which includes Elliot Dixon, Liam Messam and Akira Ioane.

Displayed only once before, during the 2011 World Cup, the exhibition showcases more than 100 years of Māori Rugby and will be in Rotorua for a week.

After taking on the Highlanders in Dunedin last time out, the Lions return to New Zealand's North Island - it's certainly a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.

It will not be a full shakedown for the All Blacks, who are to name their line-up on Thursday with seven of the 33-man squad unlikely to be available.

  • Julie Sanders