Peter O'Mahony to captain the Lions against Maori All Blacks

17 Juin, 2017, 05:48 | Author: Marie-Claire Cellier
  • Liam Messam Maori All Blacks are band of brothers bound by blood

But if the team Gatland announced on Thursday is his test lineup, it contains some surprises.

"The big lesson is that New Zealand sides keep playing for 80 minutes", Gatland said, harking back to the last-gasp nature of their other tour loss, to the Blues a week ago.

"I think he's about to bring out a few extra players to give himself the ability to bring or play two squads", said Hansen.

"He's well aware of the competition that's there at the moment", Gatland said.

'One of the reasons we selected him as captain of the squad is that he is an absolute quality player.

"We're a week out from the first Test so Saturday's game against the Maori is huge for us, it's like an unofficial fourth Test match".

The Tour captain is named on the bench for the upcoming clash and although he may well still feature against the All Blacks next weekend, a non-dominant performance from the bench this Saturday and a good display from Sean O'Brien may well consign his fate to a bench role for the Test series. Sexton, who had had a disappointing start to the tour, had shown well when coming on against the Crusaders, slotting in at 10 with Farrell shifting across to his England position at inside centre.

Mako Vunipola has been named at loosehead prop, with club colleague Jamie George alongside him in the front row at hooker.

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"He fully understands that that loose forward trio (O'Mahony, O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau) went outstandingly well against the Crusaders".

Gatland has changed the entire starting 15 that lined up against the Highlanders, continuing the policy of sweeping rotation that he has used throughout the tour.

Of greater concern was the set piece, where Mathieu Reynal allowed the lineout to form a lot closer than we are used to, allowing the Lions to disrupt the normally efficient Crusaders, and at scrum time, where the Crusaders feel they were hard done by.

The Lions beat Australia 2-1 in their last test series.

Chiefs full-back Damian McKenzie will start at fly-half in a deadly-looking Maori XV, with head coach Colin Cooper challenging his side to attack at pace.

There were fan complaints that the Lions rush defence was often offside, but really it was a case of the Lions recognising what they could and couldn't get away with, something New Zealand teams are often "accused" of.

MAORI ALL BLACKS: James Lowe, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Matt Proctor, Charlie Ngatai, Rieko Ioane, Damian McKenzie, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam, Elliot Dixon, Akira Ioane, Tom Franklin, Joe Wheeler, Ben May, Ash Dixon (c), Kane Hames.

"There's some clarity and familiarity on how we want to play the game that's been good - we didn't get the whole team until Sunday", Cooper said.

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