Gatland forced to defend Lions call ups

Lions boss Warren Gatland has vowed to protect the potential squad for Saturday's first All Blacks Test by keeping the brunt of that 23 out of the firing line against the Chiefs on Tuesday.

They'll be joined by Scottish duo Finn Russell and Allan Dell - who've been on tour with their national team in Australia - ahead of the Lions' next match, against Waikato Chiefs on Tuesday.

Gatland said off-the-ball obstruction was endemic in New Zealand rugby and his players had been blocked throughout their five warm-up games, costing them valuable attacking opportunities.

The victory sent a powerful message to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen as to how tough the Lions would be when the test series gets underway in Auckland next Saturday.

The Lions' first clash with the All Blacks is just six days away and after all the nervous build-up, it looks like we will have a competitive series on our hands.

A brutal forward pack assault silenced the Maori All Blacks and handed the British and Irish Lions a vital, morale-boosting 32-10 victory.

Gatland said the blocking impeded his players' ability to compete in the air, nullifying the Lions kicking game and costing them tries.

The match was thought likely to be the Lions' toughest before the first test and their nearly full-strength lineup rose to the occasion, shutting the Maori out.

Warren Gatland has been forced to defend his decision to call up six players to his British and Lions squad.

The performance and the win over the Maori was not, said Gatland, about sending a message to the All Blacks in the wake of their scintillating 78-0 win over Samoa.

A direct, physical approach paid off for the tourists, who were far too good for the undisciplined Moaris and were rewarded with a penalty try and another for the superb Maro Itoje in a one-sided second half after Tawera Kerr-Barlow was sin-binned for a unsafe tackle on Leigh Halfpenny.

"It's a huge day for me personally and an incredible honour to captain the Lions against a good side like the Maoris and to come out with a huge win, I'm proud of the boys".

"It's up to us to show a good picture, but it's hard when everyone is going together".

The Maori stunned the Lions 19-13 some 12 years back, but here the tourists wrestled their hosts into submission.

In fairness to the South African, that part of the game has to be bossed by the touchies or "assistant referees" as we must now call them.

Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne slot into the midfield, suggesting two of Ben Te'o, Jonathan Joseph and Jonathan Davies will start on Saturday.

"They're in a new side that's been developing over the last four weeks and I think we're going to be a hell of a side".

Obviously for an England player to arrive in time to prepare for the Chiefs game they wouldn't be able to play in the second Argentina Test and would have to already be en route.

Farrell, a strong contender at flyhalf or inside centre for the June 24 first test, suffered a quadriceps injury last week and had been in doubt for the game at Eden Park.

  • Julie Sanders