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Unchanged Lions for vital third Test

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    06 Jul 2017     Getty Images

It is the first time since 1993 in New Zealand the Lions have been able to field the same side for consecutive Tests.

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Gatland said: "It is not very often on a Lions tour that you get to pick the same 23 for the following game.

"We felt we should reward the players for the result, and the courage that they showed in coming from behind from 18-9 down, digging themselves out of a hole and then finishing strongly in the last 10-15 minutes."

At the same time Gatland said he was aware there would be some disappointed players in the squad who hadn't been selected.

"It is what you would expect from competitive top athletes, they back themselves," he said.

"But we have stressed all along that this is not all about the 23 players but about everyone in the squad – they have put their disappointment behind them and are helping the match day squad prepare the best they can for the Test match."

Gatland said they were fully aware of how important the game was and how disappointed the All Blacks would be after the second Test loss.

"But the pleasing thing about the second Test is just how strong we were in the last 10-15 minutes, in terms of energy and enthusiasm so we still feel there is another level in us.
"This is a huge chance for this group of players to show their abilities and reap the benefits of the work everyone has put in. It is their chance to make Lions' history," he said.

Earlier, assistant coach Neil Jenkins said it was a 'humongous' game and they were well aware of how difficult winning would be.

"If we can play the way that we want to play and implement our game plan on the All Blacks, well, it's going to be an incredibly tough and a very close game," he said.

The Lions were on the cusp of history as only the second side to win a series from the All Blacks.

"Sometimes you don't actually appreciate what you've done until you've finish playing. It might only be a look but you have friendships and bonds for life and that will never change," he said.

The side's break in Queenstown had been beneficial, he said.

"It's nice to have a couple of days off and feel refreshed and ready to go. The boys have been flat out for seven weeks. They have been non-stop, albeit on this tour let alone the season they already played so I think it's good for the guys to have a bit of down time."

The Lions team is: 1.Mako Vunipola, 2.Jamie George, 3.Tadhg Furlong, 4.Maro Itoje, 5.Alun Wyn Jones, 6.Sam Warburton (captain), 7.Sean O'Brien, 8.Taulupe Faletau, 9.Conor Murray, 10.Johnny Sexton, 11.Elliot Daly, 12.Owen Farrell, 13.Jonathan Davies, 14.Anthony Watson, 15.Liam Williams.

Substitutes: 16.Ken Owens, 17.Jack McGrath, 18.Kyle Sinckler, 19.Courtney Lawes, 20.CJ Stander, 21.Rhys Webb, 22.Ben Te'o, 23.Jack Nowell.