Published: Thu, June 08, 2017
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

All change as Lions go with different 15 for Blues

All change as Lions go with different 15 for Blues

The hooker is one of five Wales players in the starting XV, which features the Ospreys half-back pairing of Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny at full-back and Justin Tipuric at openside.

When quizzed on the latest round of implied All Blacks scorn on the Lions' game plan, head coach Gatland vowed the tourists will build a varied attacking strategy.

Speaking about Owens, the Kiwi coach said: "He has captained the Scarlets and has assumed a leadership role within the camp and it is a great opportunity for him". Warren Gatland asked me last night - it was a bit of a shock, but a huge honour.

"It's just a massive honour for myself and a challenge I'm relishing on Wednesday, leading the boys out and hopefully putting a massive performance in that the Lions shirt deserves".

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Double act: Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne are a familiar pairing. Then there's the athleticism Lawes and Itoje in the engine room, both players who can also pack down at blindside.

On the ball: Sonny Bill Williams should line up for the Blues against the Lions.

The ex-England worldwide said it was "virtually impossible" to win over the staunchly loyal locals, typified by the media's reaction to their limp first-up performance against the NZ Provincial Barbarians on Saturday.

He said: "We are expecting a big crowd at Eden Park". We won 20 provincial matches but lost the first one in Queensland. "We are hoping for some good weather and are expecting a tough, fast and open game of rugby".

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"We know we didn't play too well on Saturday (and). there are some things we need to work on", he told reporters in Auckland on Monday when he named his side for the Blues clash.

"Now we want to be part of those negotiations but there's no anger - it's purely trying to get people to understand how great the Lions tour is. The guys playing on Wednesday will probably be feeling a lot better than the guys playing today".

Yet ironically, while the tour itself, and the squad selection, has been built-up and debated since the naming of Warren Gatland as head coach last September, on the field the Lions have been distinctly lacking in build-up.

It means that the only players who will not have made an appearance after the second game of the tour are flanker Sean O'Brien, scrum-half Conor Murray, centre Jonathan Davies and wing George North, while Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong, George Kruis, O'Mahony, Owen Farrell and Williams are yet to start a match.

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British and Irish Lions team to face the Blues on Wednesday: L Halfpenny (Wales), J Nowell (England), J Payne, R Henshaw (both Ireland), E Daly (England), D Biggar, R Webb (both Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Owens (Wales, capt), D Cole, M Itoje, C Lawes, J Haskell (all England), J Tipuric (Wales), CJ Stander (Ireland). Faiane, Rieko Ioane, Stephen Perofeta, Augustine Pulu, Steve Luatua, Blake Gibson, Akira Ioane, Scott Scrafton, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Charlie Faumuina, James Parsons (captain), Ofa Tu'ungafasi.

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