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

Four Irish players in Lions team to play Crusaders

Four Irish players in Lions team to play Crusaders

Gatland said that there was little difference between Super Rugby teams and the All Blacks after the Lions lost to the Blues.

The 28-year-old Crotty, who was expected to be named in Steve Hansen's All Blacks squad for the three-test series on Thursday, suffered rib cartilage damage in the Crusaders' 25-22 win over the Otago Highlanders on Saturday.

Up front, stand-in skipper Alun Wyn Jones - who captained the Lions in the third 2013 Test against Australia - will start in the second row alongside George Kruis.

While the Lions demonstrated a stiff defence against the Blues at Eden Park on Wednesday, they must capitalise on their scoring opportunities, create more with the ball in hand, and not rely exclusively on their kicking game to create pressure.

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Gatland insisted there is no shame in suffering defeat in the tour matches, which he says provide the ideal preparation for the three New Zealand Tests.

Also making getting his first taste of action on this tour is Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray, who will partner England fly-half Owen Farrell in a half-back partnership that would be many people's preference to start the Test series with the All Blacks, starting June 24.

Hansen said: "This was the hardest squad we have ever had to pick, there were some really tough decisions because there are some guys who are in great form who have missed out". In the first half against the Super Rugby side, you could clearly see the green shoots of progress. "I don't know what his thinking is", Hansen said to Gatland's take on the standard of domestic rugby compared to worldwide.

"Last night's result against the Blues was disappointing, and we know we can't afford to give away so many penalties", Gatland said.

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"But we think the Lions will get better, I'm sure they will, they are quality players and there's no reason why they shouldn't". They're in their infancy of this tour. "They will be a good side when the tests come around and that is all they care about anyway".

On Saturday, the Crusaders represent a considerable step up in intensity with coach Scott Robertson fielding all of his All Blacks, with six in the pack alone. "That's why the challenge for us is coming together as quickly as we possibly can". "We are facing some of the best rugby players in the world but we have some of the world's best in this team, too, so it will be a fantastic clash".

Team: S Hogg; G North, J Davies; B Te'o, L Williams; O Farrell; C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong; AW Jones (capt), G Kruis; P O'Mahony, S O'Brien, T Faletau.

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