The British and Irish Lions open up their 2017 tour of New Zealand against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, Saturday morning. The match will be played at Okara Park, known as Toll Stadium, in Whangarei.
The Lions will be led by tour captain Sam Warburton, who passed a fitness test, after being out for two months with a knee injury. Warburton will be joined by international teammates Taulupe Faletau and Ross Moriarty, to cap an all-Welsh back row.
There will be nine Lions debutants – including rookie tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler and Auckland born Ben Te’o. 34 year-old Rory Best packs down at hooker, alongside Sinckler – whilst England’sJoe Marler will be at loosehead prop.
Alun Wyn Jones will appear in his third tour with the Lions and will be joined by Ian Henderson at lock.
Veterans Greg Laidlaw and Johnny Sexton will pair at half back. The duo has over 120 international caps between them – whilst Sexton has three Lions caps to his name.
Gatland has gone with an exciting backline where he has focused on attacking players – suggesting an expansive game plan. Te’o is joined by England colleague Jonathan Joseph – whilst Tommy Seymour, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg also start. Hogg toured Australia with the Lions in 2013 and was the youngest player on the tour at just 20.
Gatland has gone with a star-studded bench. Owen Farrell, Justin Tipuric and former New Zealand U-20 international, Jared Payne, all start as replacements.
The Provincial Barbarians feature players from the semi-professional Mitre 10 Cup and Heartland Championships. The Barbarians are coached by Bay of Plenty head coach Clayton McMillan.
McMillan has selected players from 14 provincial unions across the National Provincial Championships.
The Baa-Baas will be captained by 29 year-old Otago hooker, Sam Anderson-Heather. Warren Gatland’s son, Bryn Gatland, will pull the strings from fly-half for the Barbarians. 22 year-old Gatland has already appeared in the Super Rugby Championship for the Blues.
London-born prop, Oliver Jager will start at tighthead prop for the Barbarians. Jager grew up in Ireland and is on the books with Super Rigby franchise, Crusaders.
Veteran centre Dwayne Sweeney also starts for the Barbarians. The 32 year-old played six seasons for Waikato Chiefs.
British and Irish Lions XV: Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’o (all England), Tommy Seymour (Scotland), Johnny Sexton (Ireland), Greg Laidlaw (Scotland); Joe Marler (England), Rory Best (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Ian Henderson (Ireland), Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton, Taulup Faletau (all Wales).
Replacements: Jamie George, Marko Vunipola (both England), Tadgh Furlong (Ireland), George Kruis (England), Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb (both Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Jared Payne (Ireland).
New Zealand Provincial Barbarians XV: Luteru Laulala, Sam Vaka (both Counties Manukau), Inga Finau (Canterbury), Dwayne Sweeney, Sevu Reece (both Waikato), Bryn Gatland (North Harbour), Jack Stratton (Canterbury); Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty), Sam Anderson-Heather (Otago, captain), Oliver Jager (Canterbury), Josh Goodhue (Northland), Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty), James Tucker (Waikato), Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury).
Replacements: Andrew Makalio (Tasman), Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington), Marcel Renata (Auckland), Matt Matich (Northland), Peter Rowe (Wanganui), Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty), Jonah Lowe (Hawke’s Bay), Junior Ngaluafe (Southland).
The Lions opener kicks-off at 8:35am BST on Saturday. The game can be seen live on Sky Sports 1, whilst talkSPORT will provide radio commentary.
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