By Thomas Branston
The British and Irish Lions travel to Dunedin to face the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Tuesday.
Warren Gatland’s Lions returned to winning ways against the unbeaten Super Rugby outfit BNZ Crusaders after suffering a surprise defeat to the Blues in Auckland last week.
After an improved performance with Gatland naming his strongest side yet, the British and Irish Lions are in search of a second consecutive win.
The Highlanders have seven players unavailable due to New Zealand and Maori All Blacks commitments, Liam Coltman, Lima Sopoaga and Waisake Naholo have all been included in the starting XV.
Tony Brown’s side are ranked fourth out of the five New Zealand Super Rugby franchises in this year’s tournament but the 2015 champions have won 10 of their 14 matches and are assured of a playoff place.
The forwards are a strong suit for the Highlanders so the Lions can expect a tough set piece challenge, which Gatland’s side arguably haven’t faced yet.
Brown names a virtually unchanged starting pack from the side that were edged 25-22 by the Crusaders in their last Super Rugby match with only Jackson Hemopo and Dillon Hunt added.
Teihorangi Walden gets a rare start with Richard Buckman shifting to full-back and Sopoaga will start at fly-half which moves Marty Banks to the bench and sees Kayne Hammington make just only his second start of the season at scrum-half.
Sam Warburton returns to the starting XV and will captain the side as Gatland again rings the changes.
Joe Marler, Rory Best and Kyle Sinckler return to the front row after the defeat against the Blues and will have a tough challenge against a strong Highlander front row.
Courtney Lawes partners up with Iain Henderson with a back line which will see James Haskell, who will face his former club, CJ Stander and Warburton complete the forward pack.
Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar make up a Welsh partnership at halfback with Webb looking to match the performance of Conor Murray against the Crusaders.
Robbie Henshaw and Jonathan Joseph partner the midfield and will need to be creative against Teihorangi Walden and Malakai Fekitoa.
Tommy Seymour, Jared Payne and Jack Nowell make up the back three with Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Dan Cole, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Greig Laidlaw, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly make the bench.
Highlanders side to face the British and Irish Lions |
The British and Irish Lions side to face the Highlanders |