The British and Irish Lions’ tour of New Zealand kicks off on Saturday as they take on a fired up New Zealand Provincial Barbarians side that happens to feature coach Warren Gatland’s son. Both teams have now been picked, ahead of the clash in Whangarei.
Gatland is not taking the NZ Barbarians side lightly, having picked six 2013 Lions in the starting XV, with three more on the bench.
Sam Warburton skippers the side, while late call up Greig Laidlaw starts at number nine.
“We have named a side that showcases a strong combination of experience and youth and we are really looking forward to Saturday,” said Gatland. “We are lucky to have some real leaders in the squad and to be able to select them for this match in the likes of Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and Greig Laidlaw.
“We’ve picked the team for Saturday but it is still the plan to try and give the whole squad a start in the next two matches. It is important the players get that opportunity, because if they go well and the team goes well, they put themselves in the shop window for a Test start.”
The New Zealand Barbarians team has also been named, by coach Clayton McMillan, and features players from 13 provincial unions. The side is captained by Otago’s Sam Anderson-Heather, with stalwart Peter Rowe as vice captain.
Veteran Dwayne Sweeney will be alongside Bryn Gatland in what should be an exciting backline.
“It’s always going to be pretty hard when you are bringing a group together from four corners of New Zealand but from what I can see and the feedback we’ve got, the boys have come together really well,” said McMillan.
“We’ve kept things relatively simple with the emphasis on creating an environment where the players can express themselves and represent their provinces with pride. We recognise it’s going to be a hard game but we have plenty to play for and the boys can’t wait to get out there.
“The unique and special occasion for bringing this team together has forced the boys to bond quite quickly, and they’ve enjoyed a fantastic week here in Whangarei,” he said.
“WE KNOW BRYN WELL” – WARBURTON
Lions skipper Warburton said that some of the Welsh players know Bryn Gatland well.
“The Welsh lads know Bryn very well. I have a lot of respect for Bryn. I saw him play last year as well. I thought he showed a lot of courage when he stepped up and kicked a dropped goal last year as well to win (for North Harbour). You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that.
“He’s obviously in a good bloodline as well. I’m looking forward to coming up against him and shaking hands after the game,” Warburton said.
NEW ZEALAND PROVINCIAL BARBARIANS
1.Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty), Sam Anderson-Heather captain – Otago), 3.Oliver Jager (Canterbury), 4.Josh Goodhue (Northland), 5.Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty), 6.James Tucker (Waikato), 7.Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), 8.Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), 9.Jack Stratton (Canterbury), 10.Bryn Gatland (North Harbour), 11.Sevu Reece (Waikato), 12.Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), 13.Inga Finau (Canterbury), 14.Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau), 15.Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau).
Substitutes: 16.Andrew Makalio (Tasman), 17.Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington), 18.Marcel Renata, 19.Matt Matich (Northland), 20.Peter Rowe (vice captain – Wanganui), 21.Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty), 22.Jonah Lowe (Hawke’s Bay), 23.Junior Ngaluafe (Southland).
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS
1.Joe Marler, 2.Rory Best, 3.Kyle Sinckler, 4.Alun Wyn Jones, 5.Iain Henderson, 6.Ross Moriarty, 7.Sam Warburton (captain), 8.Taulupe Faletau, 9.Greig Laidlaw, 10.Johnny Sexton, 11.Tommy Seymour, 12.Ben Te’o, 13.Jonathan Joseph, 14.Anthony Watson, 15.Stuart Hogg.
Substitutes: 16.Jamie George, 17.Mako Vunipola, 18.Tadhg Furlong, 19.George Kruis, 20.Justin Tipuric, 21.Rhys Webb, 22.Owen Farrell, 23.Jared Payne.
19:35 (NZ), 8:25am (UK)