Maori All Blacks a marker for Lions

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Lynn McConnell     02 Jun 2017     Getty Images

Speaking after the side's first full training run, at QBE Stadium in Albany on Thursday, Gatland said he expected some 'mirroring' of the Test side in the team to play the Maori.

Ahead of that however, the opening game on Saturday against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians was a chance to lay down a marker. It was the dream of every player to be involved in a Test match and this was the first chance to stake a claim, Gatland said.


While there were some apparent combinations in the side for Whangarei, they were largely by accident because of the availability of the players concerned at their camps at home. But the coaches were excited about a lot of prospective combinations coming up in the games ahead, he said.

Team captain Sam Warburton said the focus against the Barbarians would be on themselves due to the lack of preparation time together. It was difficult to say what the opposition were going to come up with but because the Lions side had been together for two weeks they were looking to themselves to make an impression on the game.

"I feel as a team we are in quite a good place for a first game, for our first hit out. I don't think we're short of preparation," he said.

Already the attention has narrowed in on the contest for first five-eighths where Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell are the main contenders for the role with Dan Biggar also available.

Gatland said: "They're both capable of playing flat to the gain line, which is important. They're both great goal-kickers with a lot of experience and I think at the moment, not just two of them but the three of them are bringing out the best in each other.

"There's going to be some real competition. It's not just their attacking, they're going to have to be strong defensively too. Their leadership is going to be important as well in terms of their communication and implementing the game plan that we can take the All Blacks on with," he said.

Warburton said he knew he would need a couple of games before he was hitting his straps but all the side knew that every game was a 'massive audition' for the Test matches.