Published: Thu, June 15, 2017
Sport | By Wendy Sparks

Lowly Auckland Blues humble British and Irish Lions

Lowly Auckland Blues humble British and Irish Lions

George North and Jonathan Davies will also be making their first appearances of the tour.

Dan Biggar (head) and Jared Payne (calf) were forced off with injuries against the Blues but Gatland said they should be fit to face the Crusaders if needed.

Meanwhile, the Guardian's leading rugby writer Paul Rees believes the Lions must improve out wide if they are going to foot it with New Zealand opposition. "Our squad is working hard and we are seeing improvement in their performances both at training and in the games".

Robertson said that Saturday's match with the Lions will be a special moment in his players' professional careers, and that while the Lions have some of the best worldwide players in world rugby, the Crusaders also have their own collection of world beaters.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who named a 33-man test squad, expressed surprise at the comment but suggested Gatland may have been joking.

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Five Aviva Premiership Rugby stars made their British and Irish Lions debuts in Auckland, as Warren Gatland's side went down late on in a challenging encounter against the Blues.

However, the head coach revealed that the Lions - under fire since their defeat to the Blues yesterday morning - are holding things back, knowing they have to keep some parts of their game secret until the First Test, in Auckland on June 24.

"If we match them physically we have a good opportunity", said Dagg. The speed of the game is quick, but think we are matching them physically, our attacking shape was better than on Saturday.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson predicted a "fantastic clash".

"This is a huge and exciting challenge for us".

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"Hugely disappointed, we came here to build on Saturday's performance, we got a good victory up in Whangarei, and we came here to get another win but unfortunately we've got a defeat", Lions captain Ken Owens said.

Crusaders team to face the British and Irish Lions: I Dagg, S Tamanivalu, J Goodhue, D Havili, G Bridge, R Mo'unga, B Hall, J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, L Romano, S Whitelock (capt), H Bedwell-Curtis, M Todd, J Taufua. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Wyatt Crockett, Michael Ala'alatoa, Quinten Strange, Jed Brown, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Tim Bateman.

There are first starts too for Mako Vunipola, the England prop, hooker Jamie George and Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong in a new-look front row, while Englandlock George Kruis makes his first start alongside Wyn Jones.

"A lot of our pack have got experience playing for their countries and in European finals".

But by pairing England star Farrell and Ireland scrum-half Murray here - along with slotting Ben Te'o alongside Wales centre Davies - the Crusaders clash is nearly a dry run for some key cogs of a potential Test XV.

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