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24 June 2017 8:35 AM UK & Ireland, 7:35 PM NZ Eden Park, Auckland

Facts

About the match

Only the 1959 Lions have beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park

Match Venue

Eden Park, Auckland

Every year the stadium hosts almost half a million sports fans

“We know what a daunting challenge we face. Everyone is really up for it.”

Warren Gatland Head Coach

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08:35 AM UK & Ireland, 07:35 PM NZ

Preview: New Zealand v The British and Irish Lions

Head Coach Warren Gatland rallies the troops ahead of the opening Test

After six matches in a whirlwind Tour that has taken the 2017 Lions the length and breadth of New Zealand, the Test series against the All Blacks has arrived.

Warren Gatland’s side return to Eden Park, site of their thrilling match with the Blues just over two weeks ago, to take on the No 1 side in world rugby.

Since that loss to the Blues however, the 2017 tourists have clicked into gear and optimism is rife in Auckland that the Lions will be more than a match for their illustrious opponents in the first Test.

Tour victories over the Crusaders, Maori All Blacks and most recently the Chiefs are evidence of a Lions side peaking at the right time, just as Gatland would have hoped.

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TEAM NEWS

It was been a sublime Tour for Munster’s Peter O’Mahony – out of Ireland’s starting XV for much of the Six Nations – and the flanker has more than earned his selection as skipper for the first Test.

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He is joined in the back row by Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau in a well-balanced trio that proved too much for both the Crusaders and the Maori on the last two weekends.

Such has been their brilliance that Tour captain Sam Warburton has to settle for a spot on the bench.

The pack is the same as the one that dismantled the Crusaders – so Saracens trio Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and George Kruis are joined by Tadhg Furlong and Alun Wyn Jones in the tight five.

Conor Murray and Owen Farrell are the halfbacks with Jonathan Davies and Ben Te’o paired together in the midfield.

While in the back three, Gatland has rewarded the form of Elliot Daly and Liam Williams as they ran riot against the Chiefs while Anthony Watson gets the nod on the right wing.

Adding impact and experience from the bench in equal measure are Jack McGrath, Ken Owens and Kyle Sinckler with Maro Itoje and Warburton the other forward cover. The replacement backs are Rhys Webb and 2013 tourists Jonathan Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny

WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING

Warren Gatland on how to beat the All Blacks:

“The message to the players before we came out to New Zealand was that to play the All Blacks you have to be bold and take risks.

“Yes we are playing to a structure as every team does, but we have been giving the confidence to the players to bring in an offloading game when it’s appropriate.”

Prop Tadhg Furlong on the honour of earning his first Lions Test cap:

“It was a boyhood dream of mine and it’s hugely exciting. Naturally you think back to your club back home where you started, your family who carted you here there and everywhere, and everyone else that has helped you along your way.”

And All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen on the challenge the Lions present:

“These games will create memories for some of these kids that they will not only take with them for all time, but which will also inspire them to push harder to make their franchise teams, to make the All Blacks. That’s what this Lions tour does for our rugby. So we respect it a lot.”

OPPOSITION

Not for nothing are the All Blacks the two-time defending World Cup champions.


Steve Hansen’s side are the No 1 side in world rugby and the Test 23 picked by the Head Coach reflects their remarkable strength in depth.

The battle begins up front and the lock duo of Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick are back in tandem in front of a Crusaders front row of Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks.

There will be a lot of interest in the back row however, where No 8 and skipper Kieran Read returns from injury to start his 98th Test for the All Blacks – only his fourth match of 2017.

He is joined by Jerome Kaino who returned from his own injury last week against Samoa and openside flanker Sam Cane.

Aaron Smith continues at No 9 with the livewire Beauden Barrett at fly half, while in midfield Ryan Crotty gets the nod to return and partner Sonny Bill Williams.

There is no place in the back three for the free-scoring Julian Savea – Rieko Ioane gets the nod on the left wing after impressing for the Blues against the tourists on the same ground while Ben Smith and Israel Dagg complete the trio.

The bench is comprised of Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett and Ardie Savea in the forwards while TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden and Anton Lienert-Brown are the backs.

HEAD TO HEAD: Beauden Barrett v Owen Farrell

There are fascinating match-ups all over the field and the battle up front will undoubtedly be key.

But it is hard to look past the two men wearing No 10 on Saturday night.

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Barrett has carried on his sublime form of last year that saw him named World Rugby’s player of the year while Owen Farrell has been similarly impressive in the northern hemisphere.

The fly half has led England to back to back Six Nations titles, his club side Saracens to back to back European crowns and has his own silverware to match Barrett after being named the best player in Europe at the end of this season.

Barrett’s fireworks with ball in hand are matched by Farrell’s superb leadership and game management – a contrast in styles that will make for fascinating viewing on Saturday. But keep an eye out for the two rugby league converts in Ben Te’o and Sonny Bill Williams who go head to head at inside centre also – expect fireworks!

KEY STAT

Ten of the matchday 23 for the Lions were series winners in Australia four years ago while Alun Wyn Jones will appear for an impressive seventh Lions Test in a row when he runs out this weekend.

The last side to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park were France back in 1994 but Ireland and England have both downed Steve Hansen’s side in recent years while the Lions have some good history on the ground, winning there in 1959 and sealing  the Test series in 1971 with a 14-14 draw.

WHERE IS IT BEING PLAYED

Eden Park, the home of New Zealand rugby, plays host to this titanic clash 12 years in the making.

The Lions played here against the Blues earlier on Tour so the 50,000 seater will not be alien to them and they will be back here for the third Test.

Founded in 1900 – the stadium is home to both the Blues and the Auckland ITM Cup side and is New Zealand’s largest and most iconic stadium with a capacity of 50,000.

Every year the stadium – located in the Kingsland suburb in the heart of Auckland – hosts almost half a million sports fans.

It was cricketer Harry Ryan who first came up with the idea of using the swamp ground for sport, then the Auckland Rugby Union leased the Park in 1913 before the All Blacks played their first Test there in 1921 against the Springboks.

The Lions first Test in Auckland was back in 1908 at Potter’s Park and their initial matches at Eden Park were in 1930 when they faced Auckland and New Zealand.

Since then it has played host to any number of historic moments – from the 1950 Empire Games (now Commonwealths) to the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 and the 1992 Cricket World Cup.

A $256 million redevelopment was completed in October 2010 to provide a permanent capacity of 50,000, with a further 10,000 temporary seats for the 2011 Rugby World Cup games including the final.

REFEREE

Jaco Peyper takes charge of his second game on this Tour, he was also the man with the whistle in Rotorua last weekend as the Lions downed the Maori All Blacks.

His touch judges are Jerome Garces and Romain Poite – who will referee the second and third Tests respectively – while Ian Smith is the TMO.

WHERE 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 #AllForOne #CHIvBIL and #LionsNZ2017

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Lions slip to first Test defeat in Auckland

Sean O'Brien goes over for the Lions first-half try

A second-half double from Rieko Ioane proved the Lions undoing as the All Blacks claimed a hard-fought first Test victory in an enthralling clash at Eden Park.

The Lions will head to Wellington with plenty of optimism however, not least after Sean O’Brien’s fantastic first-half try from a team move that will live long in the memory of all who saw it and Rhys Webb’s late snipe from close range.

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Some quick thinking from the All Blacks saw Codie Taylor cross out wide in the first half after the hosts had weathered an initial Lions storm and, with Beauden Barrett flawless from the kicking tee, the tourists were on the back foot for much of the first half.

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But Liam Williams led a dramatic breakout from his own 22 that culminated in O’Brien going over for a wonder try, and with an Owen Farrell penalty the Lions were in the battle at the break, trailing 13-8.

After the interval the Lions came out firing, with the impressive Jonathan Davies testing the All Black defence on a wet night in Auckland but the home side held firm before Ioane – on his first Test start – turned on the style.

First the winger dotted down in the left corner after the All Blacks put the ball through the hands and with ten minutes left he broke free from halfway after gathering a fumbled TJ Perenara box-kick.

The Lions kept coming until the final whistle, replacement Webb darting over from close range, but it was a case of a chance missed for the tourists as the All Blacks head to Wellington 1-0 up in the three-Test series.

The hosts may not have lost a Test at Eden Park since 1994 but the Lions were undaunted and were on the attack right from the off.

After Aaron Smith conceded a penalty the Lions built the phases before working Davies in the clear down the left, from the next phase Farrell then appeared to have put Elliot Daly over in corner. But the TMO showed the winger was in touch and the All Blacks were off the hook.

Although both Ben Smith and Israel Dagg were having initial problems with Murray’s expert box-kicking, the hosts had found their groove up front and – after Jerome Kaino’s break earned a penalty – Barrett slotted over the first points of the Test series in the 13th minute.

The first quarter was being played at a frenetic pace and with the hosts now gaining serious yardage playing off Aaron Smith’s smart service – Taulupe Faletau and Jamie George were leading a big defensive shift from the Lions.

But after the impressive Brodie Retallick’s turnover, the All Blacks clicked into gear and from a quick tap penalty spread the ball right, Dagg’s pass expertly picked up off his toes by Taylor to go over in the corner.

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It was ruthless from the world champions, Barrett’s conversion making it 10-0 with only 20 minutes played.

Sam Cane and O’Brien’s battle at the breakdown was blockbuster all night but the Lions badly needed a score and on the half-hour mark it came, Farrell slotting a penalty after Murray was taken out illegally.

No sooner had they got a foothold than the Lions were up against it again when skipper Read – showing no signs of ring rust after seven weeks out with a thumb injury – broke clear and another penalty for offside was slotted by Barrett to take the lead back out to ten points at 13-3.

The All Blacks had the lead but injuries in the backline were threatening to derail them, Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty both withdrawn in quick succession, moving Barrett to full back, Anton Lienert-Brown into midfield and Aaron Cruden to fly half.

And moments later the Lions turned the tables with a try for the ages. Williams led the breakout from his own 22 as he sidestepped Read, Cruden and Sonny Bill Williams, offloaded to Davies and when the centre swapped passes with Daly it was O’Brien on the shoulder to dot down an end-to-end score – truly one of the great Lions tries.

Farrell’s extras were off-target but the Lions were in the game at 13-8 and when the heavens opened at the interval it was the Lions who went in with a spring in their step.

And the tourists’ momentum carried on at the start of the second period, Davies and Anthony Watson both scything through in quick succession to put the Lions deep in the All Blacks 22.

But the hosts’ scramble and maul defence held firm, and as the rain continued to fall the second half was still scoreless – the Lions turning to Maro Itoje and Jack McGrath off the bench with Sam Warburton not far behind.

Ben Te’o was making some thundering hits in defence in an enthralling personal duel with Sonny Bill Williams – but in the 55th minute, having soaked up the Lions best punches, the All Blacks showed just why they are the world champions.

First they got the nudge on from a scrum, Read then showed fabulous skill to offload to his scrum half from the deck and the ball went through the hands to put Ioane in the corner for their second try.

Barrett was again flawless with the extras and at 20-8, the Lions – with Jonathan Sexton now on for Te’o – had it all to do as the game ticked towards the hour mark.

Another Barrett penalty turned the screw before a Sam Whitelock lineout steal killed the Lions momentum and set the stage for more Ioane brilliance. Pouncing on a loose ball after Liam Williams had failed to gather replacement Perenara’s box-kick, the winger showed Daly a clean pair of heels in the race to the line from halfway.

The Lions fought hard in last ten minutes, replacement Kyle Sinckler bursting clear down the right and it was Webb – on for Murray – who sent the Sea of Red at Eden Park home with something to cheer with a late consolation.

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