Tomorrow’s British & Irish Lions team selected to face the Hurricanes have been reminded there are still Test places to play for.
Head coach Warren Gatland named his matchday 23 to face Super Rugby’s reigning champions at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium as the Lions arrived in New Zealand’s capital city the day after their 30-15 bashing by the All Blacks at Eden Park, Auckland.
The forwards lost the physical battle in the set-piece and at the breakdown to a dominant pack while there were some costly errors and a lack of clinical finishing that has put the midweek Lions on alert that they can still play a part in the Test series, which resumes in Wellington this Saturday.
Gatland promoted backs Liam Williams and Elliot Daly to the first Test team last week on the back of strong performances against last Tuesday’s opponents the Chiefs and repeated the message that there is plenty to play for in Wellington, not least for second rowers Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson, named in a starting XV while one of last Saturday’s starting locks George Kruis has found himself on the bench against the Hurricanes.
“There is definitely an opportunity for players to go out and impress,” Gatland said. “The message from the 2013 Lions tour in Australia is there were significant changes between the first, second and third Tests.
“So there will be opportunities on Tuesday night up against a quality side, the Super Rugby defending champions “There are some areas we need to improve on from Saturday and these guys get a chance to go out and show their wares.
They have been preparing well and know we need to step up and give a good performance.
“They get a chance to go out there and be very physical both defensively and in the contact area in attack. That was the one area that was disappointing from our point of view on Saturday. But there were lots of things that we did that were incredibly positive and that we can build on.
“There’s no hiding away from the fact that this week is really, really important for us. So to get a good performance and a good victory on Tuesday night to build into Saturday is going to be pretty crucial for us.”
Henderson and Lawes feature in an unchanged pack from last week’s 34-6 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton with Ireland captain Rory Best once again named to lead the side from hooker.
With Sam Warburton apparently poised to return to the starting Test back-row, Ireland back rower CJ Stander has been given the chance to fight for a place with a start tomorrow at No.8, while in the back three Jack Nowell, a two-try scorer from the wing in Hamilton, has been moved to full-back with George North, left out of the Test squad last weekend, being invited to prove a point on the left wing.
The Hurricanes have been boosted by the release from the All Blacks quartet Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape and Vaea Fifita to face the Lions. They will be missing Test half-backs TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett but the fly-half’s brother Jordie starts at full back in a powerful back three also featuring All Blacks wings Nehe Milner-Skudder and Savea.
J Barrett; N Milner-Skudder, V Aso, N Laumape, J Savea; O Black, T T Tahuriorangi; B May, R Riccitelli, J To’omaga-Allen; M Abbott, S Lousi; V Fifita, C Gibbins, B Shields – captain.
L Apisai, C Eves, M Kainga, J Blackwell, R Prinsep, K Hauiti-Parapara, W Goosen, C Jane.
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS (v Hurricanes):
J Nowell (England); T Seymour (Scotland), J Joseph (England), R Henshaw (Ireland), G North (Wales); D Biggar (Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland); J Marler (England, R Best (Ireland, capt), D Cole (England; I Henderson (Ireland), C Lawes (England); J Haskell (England), J Tipuric (Wales), CJ Stander (Ireland).
K Dacey (Wales), A Dell (Scotland), T Francis (Wales), C Hill (Wales), G Kruis (England), G Davies (Wales), F Russell (Scotland), J Payne (Ireland).
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