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10 June 2017 8:35 AM UK & Ireland, 7:35 PM NZ AMI Stadium, Christchurch

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About the match

The Crusaders have not faced the Lions before but the provincial side of Canterbury have a storied history against the tourists including a victory in 1983

Match Venue

AMI Stadium, Christchurch

This will be the first time the AMI stadium has hosted the Lions

“We expect a tough game against the most successful team in Super Rugby history.”

Warren Gatland Head Coach

Preview: Crusaders v British & Irish Lions

Alun Wyn Jones speaks to his teammates during the captain's run.

In Tours gone by the Lions fixture against the New Zealand Maori has been called the unofficial fourth Test but you could make a strong case in 2017 that this Crusaders clash is the toughest task outside of the All Blacks.

Unbeaten in Super Rugby this year, Scott Robertson’s table toppers will present a true test for the Lions as they arrive in the South Island for the first time on this Tour.

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But after an improved showing against the Blues on Wednesday in game two – albeit in a narrow defeat – the Lions come to AMI Stadium this weekend with confidence still high.

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Victory in rugby-mad Christchurch would lay down a marker in the same week the All Blacks named their squad for the Test series and Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland has not held back in his selection.

TEAM NEWS

Gatland has long stated that every player on Tour will get a start in the first three matches and the Head Coach has been as good as his word.

In come Jonathan Davies, Conor Murray, George North and Sean O’Brien for their first appearances on this Tour while Alun Wyn Jones – captain in the third Lions Test four years ago – skippers the side.

Jones is joined in the second row by George Kruis who has his Saracens clubmates Jamie George and Mako Vunipola in front of him alongside Tadhg Furlong.

The back row sees O’Brien on the openside while Peter O’Mahony is on the blindside with Taulupe Faletau starting his second game of the Tour at No 8.

Behind the scrum Murray and Owen Farrell – both Test Lions in 2013 – will pull the strings while Davies is joined by the in-form Ben Te’o in midfield.

Stuart Hogg gets another go at full back with Liam Williams and George North on the wings.

Ken Owens, Dan Cole and Jack McGrath are the front row cover on the bench with Maro Itoje and CJ Stander also replacements. The backline options off the bench are Rhys Webb, Jonathan Sexton and Anthony Watson.

WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING

Warren Gatland on the Test selection conundrum:

“The players will get one or two chances and only one or two to make an impact before we start thinking about the Test matches.”

Owen Farrell on his half-back partner Conor Murray:

“We have not had too long together but Conor is a brilliant player and someone who I have admired for a long time so I look forward to getting out there and playing with him.”

Peter O’Mahony on going above and beyond for the cause:

“The players that have been picked are world class and it’s whether we can go the extra five per cent beyond that level.

“You have a short window of prep but you’re considered to have that in the bank because you have the tag of being world class so it’s about finding that five percent.”

OPPONENTS

The Crusaders are a perfect 14 from 14 this year and stand on the verge of only the second unbeaten season in Super Rugby history.

Unsurprisingly for a side with a such an impressive history – they have won Super Rugby seven times – it was also them who completed the first unbeaten season back in 2002.

But Robertson has held nothing back for the season run-in and given all his big guns a go against the Lions this weekend.

The front five are all All Blacks, led by lock Sam Whitelock, while the backline is packed with firepower.

Richie Mo’unga has called the tune impressively this year while out wide the likes of Seta Tamanivalu and George Bridge will take some stopping.

And keep an eye out for David Havili, so impressive at full back this season but switched to inside centre this weekend to accommodate Israel Dagg.

HEAD TO HEAD – Sam Whitelock v George Kruis

Whitelock took over the captaincy of the Crusaders this year and it is no coincidence that they have gone from strength to strength.

After being named in the All Blacks squad for the Test series, this will be the lock’s chance to lay down a marker for his club side.

But he will have his work cut out for him against England’s George Kruis who starts his first game on Tour.

Kruis’ debut for England back in 2014 saw him come off the bench to take on Whitelock but never has he started against this illustrious opponent before so expect sparks to fly.

The battle of the set-pieces will be pivotal, and these two are world-class exponents of tight forward play.

KEY STAT

Nine of the starting XV selected by Warren Gatland toured in 2013 and of those nine – only Stuart Hogg did not appear in the Test series win over the Wallabies.

Hogg, Faletau, Alun Wyn Jones and Ben Te’o become the first 2017 Lions to start their second games on Tour while if Jonathan Sexton is called upon from the bench he will have appeared in all three matches so far.

This is the first time the Lions have faced the Crusaders but they have faced the Canterbury provincial side many times before, most recently in 1993 when the Lions went away victorious.

WHERE IS IT BEING PLAYED

When the Lions meet the Crusaders on June 10 it will be at Rugby League Park, known as AMI Stadium, where the Super Rugby team have been based since the 2011 earthquake.

The natural disaster which hit the city forced the former AMI Stadium, previously known as Jade Stadium and Lancaster Park, to close.

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Formerly the Addington Showgrounds, Rugby League Park is owned by Canterbury Rugby League after it was purchased from the city council in the 1990s.

The ground has hosted numerous Rugby League World Cup matches, with the All Blacks playing their first rugby union game there in 2012 when they beat Ireland 22-19.

Comfortable Test victories over France, Argentina and South Africa have all followed at their new Christchurch home.

This will be the first time the stadium has hosted the Lions though, and it’s sure to be an emotional and poignant moment when the tourists run out against the Crusaders this summer.

REFEREE

Mathieu Raynal will be the man in the middle for Saturday’s clash in Christchurch – taking charge of his first Lions game after running the line on Wednesday at Eden Park.

Pascal Gauzere and Angus Gardner will be the touch judges on Saturday with Marius Jonker the TMO.

HOW TO WATCH

Every game of the Tour will be shown on Sky Sports 1 at 8:35AM BST, 7:35PM local time in New Zealand and live on Radio on Talk Sport

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

Follow all the Lions official accounts on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram using   and 






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Lions on song to earn victory over Crusaders

CJ Stander on the charge for the Lions

Owen Farrell kicked four penalties to earn The British & Irish Lions a pulsating victory over the Crusaders and hand the Super Rugby side their first loss of the season.

Behind a dominant pack performance from the 2017 tourists, Farrell slotted three kicks in the first half to one from Richie Mo’unga for a 9-3 lead.

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And despite losing both Stuart Hogg and Jonathan Davies to injury in the opening period the Lions backline improvised superbly with replacements Jonathan Sexton and Anthony Watson to the fore.

Farrell’s fourth penalty of the night in the second half stretched the lead to nine points at 12-3 and that was how it stayed.

The Lions will now carry some serious momentum into Dunedin on Tuesday when they take on the Highlanders but also with room for improvement after being held tryless despite carving out numerous chances.

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After another spine-tingling haka – the first in the Crusaders’ franchise history – it was the Lions who burst into life after Luke Romano spilled the kick-off, Davies on the charge and seemingly about to put George North in the clear but the final pass was intercepted by George Bridge and the chance was lost.

However, the Lions forward pack was up for the battle and when the scrum won a penalty in kickable range Farrell made no mistake for the first points of the game.

Conditions were greasy in the evening Christchurch air and when Mo’unga spilled a Farrell bomb on the quarter-hour mark the scrum again got to work to win a penalty and Farrell made it 6-0.

The game was being played at Test-match intensity but the Lions hopes were hit by the loss of Hogg soon after – the full back having to go off after colliding with Conor Murray’s elbow with Watson introduced in his place.

The hosts were rousing from their early slumber, and when they won their first scrum penalty they enjoyed their first period of real pressure which eventually earned a penalty that Mo’unga slotted to trim the lead to 6-3.

Romano was then again caught out by the re-start, but Davies knocked on and departed soon after – bringing Sexton into proceedings.

But the Lions did not miss a beat and when the hosts went offside at a maul, Farrell restored a six-point lead just after the half-hour mark.

The rest of the half was frantic, Sean O’Brien and Ben Te’o both carrying with full-blooded intent but not for nothing are the Crusaders unbeaten this year in Super Rugby.

And the hosts thought they had the game’s first try soon after, Codie Taylor burrowing near the post but the TMO could not award it and the Lions finally relieved the pressure, Mako Vunipola superb in defending the maul all night long.

The tourists then ended the half on the front foot with Farrell – now in the centres – showing some lovely touches but they could not add to the score and it was 9-3 at the break.

Owen Farrell kicked three key penalties in the first half

The Crusaders came out early for the second period but it was the Lions who hit the ground running, their line speed continued to force the hosts into errors.

But they failed to make their dominance count, Farrell missing a simple penalty and Liam Williams spilling Te’o’s tough pass down the left when in the clear.

And the Crusaders – with an all new-front row – nearly made them pay soon after, centre Jack Goodhue scorching clear before delivering a clever grubber that Bridge knocked on with the try-line begging.

But despite the hosts’ front-row reinforcements, the Lions continued to get the nudge at scrum time and so nearly had their first try before the hour mark, Watson terrorising Crusaders defenders with his footwork before swivelling over but Williams was adjudged to have knocked on in the build-up.

Soon after Watson and Sexton again cut loose but CJ Stander – on for the impressive O’Brien – knocked on and the Crusaders survived.

After the hour mark Warren Gatland called for reinforcements, Maro Itoje and Jack McGrath thrust into the fray with Ken Owens and Dan Cole not far behind.

Still only six points in front at 9-3, the Lions desperately needed the next score that their dominance warranted.

Murray’s pinpoint kicking continued to turn the hosts’ back three, Williams was getting no end of joy down the left wing and when the home side once again went offside, Farrell made no mistake for a 12-3 lead with ten minutes left.

See the moment Johnny Sexton and Taulupe Faletau combined for a key turnover

And in the face of fierce pressure in the closing stages, the tourists held on to claim a serious scalp and gather momentum before the Test series against the All Blacks.






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