By Thomas Branston
The British and Irish Lions will look to bounce back from a second tour defeat to another Super Rugby side as they face the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday.
The Lions were edged out 23-22 against the Highlanders in a pulsating game at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.
Warren Gatland has named a strong squad that will be led by Peter O’Mahony and the Irish back row has described his captains call up as “a huge honour.”
England fly-half Owen Farrell was named in the squad but has since pulled out with a grade one quad strain after picking up the injury during training.
Dan Biggar replaces Farrell on the bench after a strong performance against the Highlanders.
Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Tadgh Furlong will make up the front row and Gatland has opted for an English lock pairing (Kruis and Itoje) with O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and Toby Faletau in the back row.
Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton will complete their Ireland Rugby combination at scrum-half and fly-half while Ben Te’o and Jonathan Davies partner in midfield.
George North, Anthony Watson and Leigh Halfpenny make up the back three with this side expected to replicate Warren Gatland’s XV for the test series.
Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler Iain Henderson, Sam Warburton, Greig Laidlaw, Dan Biggar and Elliot Daly have all been named on the bench.
Maori All Blacks Head Coach Colin Cooper prepares his side for a stern test on Saturday and his inherited team haven’t been beaten since 2003, winning 20 consecutive games.
His sides last defeat was a 23-9 loss against England in New Plymouth on September 6 2003.
The Maori All Blacks were the only side to beat the British and Irish Lions outside of the test series on their last tour of New Zealand in 2005 with a 19-13 win.
Cooper has named nine All Blacks in his squad to face the British and Irish Lions, boasting a promising backline full of young talent and a forward pack brimming with power and experience.
Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon will captain the side and will hope the Maori All Blacks can replicate what his Super Rugby side did on Tuesday.
The backline plays host to some of the most exciting young generation of All Black backs with talented wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, fly-half Damian McKenzie and Blues wing Rieko Ioane who has already faced the Lions on their tour.
Centre Charlie Ngatai and scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow make up the rest of the backline which poses great threats to the Lions defence.
Veteran loose forward Liam Messam adds strength to the pack with 43 All Black caps and is joined by Elliott Dixon and prop Kane Hames, with hooker Hika Elliott on the bench.
Maori All Blacks to face the British and Irish Lions |
The British and Irish Lions to face the Maori All Blacks |