Wednesday, 22 November, 2017

Lions captain Warburton on bench, O'Mahony leads team

All Blacks trio Brodie Retallick Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea run during a session All Blacks trio Brodie Retallick Beauden Barrett and Julian Savea run during a session
Elias Hubbard | 22 June, 2017, 10:21

"He was elusive, he caused the Chiefs a lot of damage, he played well and so he has been given an opportunity at 15".

New Zealand also named their team earlier on Wednesday, with captain Kieran Read fit to return at number eight after undergoing surgery on a broken thumb suffered in April.

And today came the confirmation - Peter O'Mahony will captain the Lions in Saturday's first Test against the All Blacks, becoming the 11th Irishman to lead the Lions in a Test.

Reflecting on the particular challenges posed by New Zealand's forwards, Rowntree said: "They have a very efficient, excellent lineout, and in the scrum they have been leading the charge for quite a long time now".

"He's got electrifying speed, and we just think for this particular match he's the boy".

"It's a tightly packed schedule but that's the beauty of the Lions - you have got the best players, you've got the best strength and conditioning coaches, the best physios all out there to be able to go out and try to create a bit of history".

Liam Williams and Ireland loose forward CJ Stander both stood out on Tuesday with the Wales fullback producing the kind of attacking flair that had been missing in the Lions' previous five games.

Here's the formidable All-Blacks side they'll face.

Things escalated last Saturday when Gatland said Hansen must be concerned about the threat the Lions pose after they dismantled a star-studded Maori All Blacks side 32-10 in Rotorua to resort to such mind games.

Sam Whitelock jumps over prop Charlie Faumuina during a training session in Auckland
Sam Whitelock jumps over prop Charlie Faumuina during a training session in Auckland

"He is more than ready to do the job, otherwise we wouldn't put him out there", he added. "But to beat the All Blacks you have to be courageous and play some rugby - you have to score tries and I think we have picked a team capable of doing that".

"Get on with things - it's that Munster kind of aggression around everything we do in training, determination, nearly 'Follow me, lads'".

We know it's going to be a tough encounter and as I said on Tuesday night [after the Chiefs match] let's let the rugby do the talking because there's been enough trash talk already.

The elevation of the 20-year-old Ioane, whose Test experience consists of just two appearances off the bench - against Italy and France last year - is one of three changes to the starting XV when the All Blacks whipped Samoa last week.

The Lions will also have a strong bench to call upon if the game remains a tight affair in the closing stages.

Johnny Sexton is on the bench.

And Gatland has favoured Alun Wyn Jones, a trusted Wales lieutenant, ahead of young England powerhouse Maro Itoje at lock.

Former Ireland and Munster hooker Frankie Sheahan, now a sports agent, tweeted a family snap of himself and his neighbour, a young O'Mahony, in paying tribute to the Lions skipper.

Itoje may feel hard-done by, but he will still play a valuable role in coming off the bench as well as covering both the second-row and blindside flanker, should he be needed in the back-row.

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