Hansen says Lions' squad 'split,' warns NZ primed

16 June, 2017, 06:15 | Author: Douglas Reid
  • Paul Alo Emile in action for the Rebels

Smith has the first crack against Samoa, but Perenara is in rich form and Tawera Kerr-Barlow can show his wares with New Zealand Maori tomorrow.

"He fully understands that that loose forward trio [O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau] went outstandingly well against the Crusaders". Ben Te'o 11. George North 10. Anthony Watson 13. Jonathan Davies 12. Leigh Halfpenny starts at full-back. There are no guarantees that Sam Warburton will be restored to the starting XV next week, nor that Alun Wyn Jones will be either; the door is open for O'Mahony to take his shot.

Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw of Gloucester Rugby and Wasps' Elliot Daly complete the bench with Biggar.

"When you play against the Pacific island teams, if you don't match these guys physically you're in for a long day", Roberts said.

"Whilst we asked for this game to help us prepare for the Lions series, once it became a reality it then took on its own importance", he said.

"The boys know they are playing the best team in the world and they know if they don't get it right, it's going to be a long day". "They've just got to gel and keep working together".

Maro Itoje added: "Whenever we play, the emphasis is always on winning. At the very minimum, we will need to match that", he said.

"We felt Owen's had a bit of rugby at the moment", he said.

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All Blacks boss Steve Hansen, on the other side of New Zealand, is already trying to call his bluff.

Head coach Warren Gatland's decision to name O'Mahony as captain in such an important match - a game commonly referred to as the "unofficial fourth Test" - means so much more to the 27-year-old given that he missed a full year of rugby and had not made it back into the Ireland squad ahead of the Six Nations clash against England in March.

Ash Dixon captains the side from hooker as part of a pack which includes Elliot Dixon, Liam Messam and Akira Ioane.

He played for Wests Tigers, Brisbane Broncos and South Sydney Rabbitohs in the National Rugby League competition, winning a premiership in 2014, and represented Queensland seven times in State of Origin - helping them to secure the final two of their eight consecutive series wins. There were 11 new All Blacks last season.

Nicknamed "The Hangi Pit" in reference to a traditional Maori cooking technique that makes use of fire-heated stones in an underground oven, and the tourists can expect a red-hot atmosphere when they go toe-to-toe with the Maori All Blacks at Rotorua International Stadium.

However, Gatland appeared in a relaxed mood as the team trained in Rotorua, and was pictured laughing and joking on the eve of his side's latest challenge.

Owen Farrell could be ruled out of the British and Irish Lions' first Test against New Zealand after he was withdrawn from the squad due to face New Zealand Maori on Saturday following a thigh strain.

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