PREVIEW: Chiefs v British & Irish Lions

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Lynn McConnell     19 Jun 2017     Getty Images

Chiefs v British & Irish Lions, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, 20 June 2017, 7.35pm

After having lost their midweek outings against the Blues and the Highlanders, the Lions have the chance to stop that sequence and at the same time provide a boost for those players preparing for the first Test against the All Blacks. It is still an efficient looking side with strength and experience up front. Joe Marler, hooker Rory Best and Dan Cole face a more youthful challenge from a competitive Chiefs unit, headed by All Black Nepo Laulala, who has a big incentive to perform well at this level. The middle row will see Iain Henderson and Courtney Lawes provide some genuine heart but they will be up against a couple of hardened campaigners in Dominic Bird and Michael Allardice.

So competitive has it been for places in the Chiefs loose forwards this year, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown and Tom Sanders have plenty to play for against the Lions unit of Justin Tipuric, James Haskell and CJ Stander, who has been one of the forwards of the Lions' tour. Just how effective the Chiefs unit can be will depend on how much ball their front five can secure but even if below 50 percent possession the defensive play of the home group of players can be expected to be intense. They all had significant roles to play in last year's win over Wales and will be well aware of what they face from the Lions.

While the Lions might prefer a structured approach to their backplay, and which has hardly been one of the impressive qualities of their tour so far, the Chiefs will look to play for space every time they get the ball. Under the guiding hand of veteran five-eighths Stephen Donald they will be looking to unleash some rising attacking stars in the New Zealand game. Wings Solomon Alaimalo and Toni Pulu both have the speed to trouble the Lions defences while the mid-field combination of Johnny Faauli and Tim Nanai-Williams will test their opposites throughout. Behind them fullback Shaun Stevenson is one of the more innovative players around. But much will depend on the quality of ball halfback Finlay Christie is given to distribute. Of the Lions second five-eighths Robbie Henshaw is in need of a quality game after earlier disappointments while outside him Jared Payne has another chance. But the most dangerous of the visitors shapes as fullback Liam Williams, a dangerous runner.


Chiefs: 1.Siegfried Fisi'ihoi, 2.Liam Polwart, 3.Nepo Laulala, 4.Dominic Bird, 5.Michael Allardice, 6.Mitchell Brown, 7.Lachlan Boshier, 8.Tom Sanders, 9.Finlay Christie, 10.Stephen Donald (captain), 11.Solomon Alaimalo, 12.Johnny Faauli, 13.Tim Nanai-Williams, 14.Toni Pulu, 15.Shaun Stevenson.

Substitutes: 16.Hika Elliot, 17.Aidan Ross, 18.Atu Moli, 19.Liam Messam, 20.Mitchell Karpik, 21.Jonathan Taumateine, 22.Luteru Laulala, 23.Chase Tiatia.

British & Irish Lions: 1.Joe Marlar, 2.Rory Best (captain), 3.Dan Cole, 4.Iain Henderson, 5.Courtney Lawes, 6.James Haskell, 7.Justin Tipuric, 8.CJ Stander, 9.Greig Laidlaw, 10.Dan Biggar, 11.Elliot Daly, 12.Robbie Henshaw, 13.Jared Payne, 14.Jack Nowell, 15.Liam Williams.

Substitutes: 16.Kristian Dacey, 17.Allan Dell, 18.Tomas Francis, 19.Cory Hill, 20.Alun Wyn Jones, 21.Gareth Davies, 22.Finn Russell, 23.Tommy Seymour.