New Zealand v British & Irish Lions
- Author: Julie Sanders Jun 22, 2017,
Jun 22, 2017, 4:57
That said, Johnny Sexton delivered an outstanding performance against the Maori in the Lions' 10 shirt and there remains a possibility that Gatland will pair up Farrell and the Irish out-half as a 10-12 combination.
Tour captain Sam Warburton, who has only led the side once, was not included in the side named yesterday, indicating he will be in the match-day 23, but not guaranteed to start against the All Blacks in the first Test on Saturday.
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Lions call-ups and injuries robbed Jones of 30 players for the end-of-season tour to South America.
Leigh Halfpenny, who is going through return-to-play protocols after taking a bang to the head against the Maori All Blacks, looks to have secured the fullback spot but Gatland wants Liam Williams, who starts against the Chiefs on Tuesday, to push his claims. "We've got a good blend of experience and a few guys who are either going to make their debut or have one or two caps, so [it's] pretty exciting".
The decision to draft Welshmen Tomas Francis, Kristian Dacey, Cory Hill and Gareth Davies, as well as Scotland duo Allan Dell and Finn Russell, into the squad has been widely criticised.
The Chiefs coach, asked about the banter starting to fly in earnest between Gatland and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, said: "I tend to let my players do the talking on the field rather than enter into all that witty stuff".
"I'd imagine their test 15 will be nailed and probably stay in Auckland, so I think they've got a lot to play for".
"It's something he did on the Australia tour in 2013".
Meads, who faced the Lions in 1959, 1966 and 1971 and is regarded by many in New Zealand as the nation's greatest player, was feted in his hometown Te Kuiti on Monday with the unveiling of a 2.7 metre bronze statue in his likeness.
Utility back Damian McKenzie, winger James Lowe and prop Kane Hames were not included in the squad for the game at Waikato Stadium after playing for the Maori All Blacks against the Lions on Saturday.
There will be two players set for debuts from the bench, in utility backs Laulala - who isn't in the Chiefs' official Super Rugby squad as such - and Chase Tiatia, who's in his second year with the franchise but has been dogged by injury. "I've no doubt he will be 100% fit for the first Test".
Farrell also reiterated Gatland's comments regarding the fitness of his son Owen.
The All Blacks have tried to call the Lions' bluff by suggesting Gatland's teams are one-dimensional - but the tourists' boss insisted he would not lose his nerve ahead of the Test series.
"There's an opportunity for Liam Williams to go and impress at full-back". The difficulty in handling the ball will deny them chance to operate with the freedom they played with against Manu Samoa.
Gatland said the blocking impeded his players' ability to compete in the air, nullifying the Lions kicking game and costing them tries.