Crunch time looming for Lions against Crusaders

Payne carried his calf issue into the Lions tour, and was a late withdrawal from the tour-opening 13-7 win over the Provincial Barbarians.

"But we think the Lions will get better, I'm sure they will, they are quality players and there's no reason why they shouldn't".

The Lions reclaimed the lead with two penalties to Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny - their only second-half points - before Williams combined with West for the match victor.

The 2017 Lions tour has been dubbed one of the toughest of all time, due to shortened preparation time and a 10-match schedule against New Zealand's finest.

MacDonald says they have combatted similar methods from Super Rugby rivals this season, one reason why they boast a flawless 14-win record.

The first Test against the All Blacks takes place on June 24.

"I just wonder if Gatland hasn't selected his best combinations to try and make the All Blacks a little more confident than they already are before the Tests start", Smit said.

The Blues, generally regarded as the weakest of New Zealand's Super Rugby sides, hit back through a Sonny Bill Williams converted try to lead 12-10 at the break. I thought we played pretty well and competed with a side that's got a very good record here at Eden Park.

Gatland said he would give all 41 members of his touring squad a chance to play in the first three matches of the Lions' New Zealand tour and would not reveal his test lineup until the fifth tour match against the New Zealand Maori, a week before the first test.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson will unleash an entire All Blacks front five on the British and Irish Lions when they meet the tourists in the third match of their tour in Christchurch on Saturday.

Against them is the bulk of the All Blacks pack that successfully defended their World Cup title in 2015 with Joe Moody, Owen Franks and Sam Whitelock all starting in the final at Twickenham, while Luke Romano and Codie Taylor were part of the wider squad.

Next up for the Lions is a clash with the Crusaders, who have yet to lose in Super Rugby this season, on Saturday and head coach Warren Gatland is expecting a much-improved performance in Christchurch.

Tour captain Sam Warburton has said they would not beat the All Blacks in the three-test series unless they scored more than 20 points per game.

Umaga said the try was built from confidence in what they can do.

"Our squad is working hard and we are seeing improvement in their performances both at training and in the games", Gatland said. We always knew it would be.

Wales centre Davies produced a stellar end to his club campaign to drive the Scarlets to the Guinness PRO12 title, but he admitted he now faces a huge challenge to fight his way into the Lions' Test consideration.

  • Julie Sanders