Published: Fri, June 23, 2017
Sports | By Nelson Rowe

Axel's spirit can help Peter drive Lions to Test success

On Saturday, the Lions will play New Zealand at Eden Park in the first of a three-game series.

O'Mahony was handed leadership duties for Saturday's clash at the All Blacks' fortress of Eden Park despite only skippering Ireland three times, relegating tour captain Sam Warburton to the bench.

"There is a nice balance there while Peter captained the side against the Maori All Blacks and has done a good job".

"To play against the All Blacks you've got to have a strong set-piece, you need a platform to be able to work off to start with. We know we have to be bold and play some positive rugby".

Gatland, himself a former All Black, said the players O'Mahony will lead onto the field had to be courageous enough to chance their arm in pursuit of victory.

Following their impressive attacking display against the Chiefs on Tuesday, Liam Williams and Elliot have been retained at full-back and left wing respectively - Anthony Watson is on the right wing.

But the team's warm-up matches have been mostly less than inspiring.

"That's easier said than done and again that's the challenge, to maintain that for 80 minutes".

"Itoje is a fantastic player and I think he will have a huge impact off the bench which could be crucial", Evans said.

The Lions say they will not make a complaint or ask for action to be taken. It's a massive thing for him, and I think he's itching to get out there now and play for the Lions in a test game.

He also won 133 Ireland caps as one of the greatest players of his generation.

Warren Gatland surprised many on Wednesday evening when he named his Lions team for the first Test against New Zealand this weekend.

Not many visiting teams limber up for a Test in New Zealand by suggesting the All Blacks' coaching staff have miscalculated but Gatland thinks his opposite number, Steve Hansen, may have done so when he announced a match-day squad of 23 with Savea omitted in favour of the talented but relatively inexperienced 20-year-old Rieko Ioane. In terms of the opposition, the preparation and the intensity of matches, it has been really beneficial.

"It's not the end of the world if you don't". We've got to be ready for any type of game against the All Blacks. "Well obviously we hope we do", he said, without revealing how the All Blacks would combat the threat.

"Probably the last week and a half, yeah, since we got into camp last week, I've been essentially pretty good since we've come back in", Read said following Friday's captain's run.

Ryan Crotty has recovered from a rib injury to allow Hansen to pair him with Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield, with Anton Lienert-Brown coming off the bench to give the All Blacks "something different", Hansen said.

Murray knows the importance of getting his box kicks on the money, but so too the chase and making sure the wingers and Jonathan Davies are well-primed to go hurtling after one of his scooping nudges.

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