Published: Fri, June 09, 2017
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Alun Wyn Jones handed Lions captaincy for Crusaders test

Alun Wyn Jones handed Lions captaincy for Crusaders test

Steve Hansen has rejected Warren Gatland's claim there is little difference between New Zealand's Super Rugby sides and the All Blacks after naming his squad to take on the British and Irish Lions.

There's no rest for the British & Irish Lions.

Adding to the Crusaders depth is eight-Test flanker Matt Todd, who is on standby as injury cover for the Lions series, and three-Test wing Seta Tamanivalu who missed the cut this year.

Gatland says there is plenty of time for players to prove they're worthy of a starting spot. You've got Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Joseph. Is it necessary right at the moment? "We haven't spoken about Test combinations". "That's how I am reading it".

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Scrum-half Conor Murray makes his first appearance of the tour and is partnered by fly-half Owen Farrell, who gets his first start after a cameo off the bench in the tour opener against the Provincial Barbarians.

The Lions have refused to risk Sam Warburton, who is carrying an ankle niggle, but aside from that Gatland has named a starting team for the Crusaders that boasts a host of potential Test-match combinations.

Getting Farrell onto the pitch on Saturday should see the Lions' attack shift into a higher gear, with his triple threat of kick-pass-run being matched to an intelligent tactical brain. That's the simplest way of looking at it.

The key for the Lions is ensuring they don't become the scalp du jour here. In the Wales series they started to counter a bit more than we've seen in the past.

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And after the opening game in Whangarei, instead of moping over a less than glorious win, they swapped jerseys and had a beer with the local players. I'm sure he is. "All we have got to concentrate on is what is ahead if us, the next game".

Finally it is noted with great interest the possibility of a couple of South African teams playing in the Pro 12 competition if they are left out of Super Rugby. He will use their matches as a chance to weigh up the Lions' strengths and weaknesses and expects the Lions to show their Test hand when they face the Maori All Blacks on June 17.

"I think it's going to be a good contest, but you would expect an worldwide team to beat a franchise team, particularly one that is made up of the four home nations, with their pick of the best players", Hansen said.

"A lot's been said about the quality of the set-piece they have, particularly this year, and they're probably going to look to it, having five All Blacks in that tight five". "Owen is a real leader like Johnny is and they're a real driving force behind our game plan". Confidence is a big thing in sport; if you've got plenty of that you can do anything.

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"You can't switch off for one second against these teams, if you do they hurt you", Halfpenny said.

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