Almost all of the initial British and Irish Lions training group are set to start the tour’s opening match against the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday.
Of the group that assembled the earliest, only Jared Payne misses out and he’s on the bench while all three Scottish Lions will start the game.
Greig Laidlaw, despite being a late call-up to the squad, is the least injured of the scrum-halves available and starts in a side that also features international captains Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and tour captain Sam Warburton; plenty of leaders. Jonny Sexton makes an unconventional half back partnership complete and it will be interesting to see the approach used.
Jonny Sexton makes an unconventional half back partnership complete and it will be interesting to see the approach used between the pair of them. You never know, Greig might actually take to Warrenball like the proverbial duck…
Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg both feature in a back division alongside Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson with club pairings to the fore. Presumably Warren Gatland is hoping these will mitigate against lack of preparation time.
Owen Farrell will provide cover from the bench along with Saracens’ Jamie George and the surviving Vunipola.
The opposition in the shape of the Provincial Barbarians, consists largely of players from the level below Super Rugby including Gatland’s son Bryn who starts at first 5/8 (standoff to those north of the border).
The match takes place at the Toll Stadium, Whangerei and will kick off at 8.35am BST on Saturday – on Sky.
Team: Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’o, Tommy Seymour, Jonathan Sexton, Greig Laidlaw; Joe Marler, Rory Best, Kyle Sinckler, Alun-Wyn Jones, Ian Henderson, Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton, Talupe Faletau.
Replacements: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Tadgh Furlong, George Kruis, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Owen Farrell, Jared Payne.