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3 June 2017 8:35 AM UK & Ireland, 7:35 PM NZ Toll Stadium, Whangarei


About the match

Modelled on the famed Barbarian FC, the New Zealand Barbarians were founded by two ex-All Blacks in 1937

Match Venue

Toll Stadium, Whangarei

The Lions have played here twice before, most recently in 1993 when they beat North Auckland 30-17

“We have to go out there and win on Saturday, there is no doubt. It’s important we get the Tour off to a good start."

Warren Gatland Head Coach

Preview: NZ Provincial Barbarians v British & Irish Lions

The wait is almost over! Fans have waited four years to see The British & Irish Lions in action.

The last four years have felt like an eternity for rugby fans the world over but the most famous tourists are finally back in action – this time in New Zealand.

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The Test series against the All Blacks is the end goal for Warren Gatland’s 2017 crop but there are challenges aplenty along the way in a six-week, ten-match Tour.

And the first of them comes on Saturday at Toll Stadium in Whangarei against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

Gatland – at the helm for the second Tour in a row – is desperate to kick things off on a winning note in the land of his birth.


24 hours after touching down in Auckland, Gatland unveiled his first starting XV of the Tour and the majority of the players that were in training camp from the first week in the Vale of Glamorgan have been trusted to lay down a marker.

But while the Head Coach must set about knitting together the best of the best from across the four home nations – there are a number of familiar combinations in his first side.

Harlequins and England props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler pack down in the front row either side of Ireland captain Rory Best.

There is also an all-Welsh back-row with captain Sam Warburton thrust straight into the action on the openside with Taulupe Faletau and Ross Moriarty at No 8 and blindside respectively.

That trio started all three Tests for Wales against the All Blacks last summer and will support Alun Wyn Jones and Irishman Iain Henderson in the boiler room.

Behind the scrum it is an all-English midfield with Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph paired together while fly half Johnny Sexton – who knows Te’o well from their time together at Leinster – is joined by the experienced Greig Laidlaw in the half-backs.

Click here for all the best images from training at QBE Stadium

Laidlaw is joined by his fellow Scots Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour at full-back and wing respectively with Anthony Watson on the other wing.

There are four Saracens players on a powerful bench in the form of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, George Kruis and Owen Farrell.

Tadhg Furlong is the replacement tighthead with Welshmen Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb joined by Elliot Daly – a late call-up for the injured Jared Payne – and all will be itching to enter the fray.


Head Coach Warren Gatland on the importance of momentum on Tour:

“We have to go out there and win on Saturday, there is no doubt. It’s important we get the Tour off to a good start.”

Prop Kyle Sinckler – who starts for the Lions before starting for his country:

“I have always been a fan of the Lions and I always will be so it’s a massive honour to put on the jersey this weekend and hopefully I leave it in a better place.”

Fly half Jonathan Sexton – who started all three Test for the Lions four years ago:

“I think it’s a clean slate. No one is going to say – oh he did really well four years ago so we will put him in. It will depend on form from here until the first Test and how well you do.”


Taking their inspiration from the UK Barbarians, the NZ Barbarians were founded in 1937 by former All Black Hugh McLeanand count a number of famous alumni like Sean Fitzpatrick and Sir John Kirwan.

In 2015 they claimed an impressive win over the Maori All Blacks but the 2017 generation are the first incarnation of the Provincial Barbarians and are coached by Bay of Plenty’s Clayton McMillan.

The 23-man largely semi-professional squad has been drawn from players across 14 different provincial sides in New Zealand including local Northland boy Matt Matic.

But there is little doubt who is the name on most people’s lips: Bryn Gatland – son of Warren – wears the No 10 shirt take on his father’s side.

HEAD TO HEAD: Jonathan Sexton v Bryn Gatland

With Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar both battling for the No 10 shirt as well, it is Sexton who gets first crack on Tour.

And the Leinsterman – who masterminded Ireland’s famous win over the All Blacks last year in Chicago – will not have to look far for tips on his opposite man Bryn Gatland.

Indeed the fly-half revealed this week that his Head Coach has not been shy in coming forward with tips on how to take on his son.

“Warren has just been telling us, we have not had to ask,” he said.

“Gats will probably like his son to play really well and lose heavily. We have had a look at him on the videos and he seems to be a really good up and coming player trying to make a name for himself.

“And a lot of their players will be in that same boat, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to progress their career but also to play against the Lions. There have been legends of New Zealand rugby who never played the Lions.”

Gatland junior is a player of serious talent in his own right, anyone who saw his last-gasp drop goal for North Harbour last year can vouch for that and he will surely have a few tricks up his sleeve to take on his old man.


Alun Wyn Jones – a veteran of three Lions Tours – is one of six members of the starting XV who have worn the famous red jersey before.

He is joined by skipper Warburton, Faletau, Best, Sexton and Hogg while there are three more Test Lions on the bench in the form of Farrell, Tipuric and Vunipola.


Toll Stadium in Whangarei plays host to the Tour opener, the third time the Lions have played here.

Gatland and his squad will be hoping for a repeat of the 1993 Tour when the Lions kicked things off with a 30-17 victory here over North Auckland.

With a capacity of over 20,000, the stadium was built in 1965 before undergoing a major redevelopment ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. It plays host to Northland in the Mitre 10 Cup.


Angus Gardner will be the man in the middle on Saturday evening – the Australian taking charge of his first ever Lions clash.

Running the touchline will be Brendon Pickerill and Mike Fraser with Aaron Paterson the TMO.


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

Live on Radio on Talk Sport


Follow all the Lions official accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram #AllForOne #BARvBIL

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Lions overcome NZ Provincial Barbarians in Tour opener

Anthony Watson goes over for the decisive second-half try

The 2017 British & Irish Lions recovered from a slow start to kick off the Tour with a hard-fought victory over the NZ Provincial Barbarians at Toll Stadium in Whangarei.

Anthony Watson’s second-half try proved vital for the tourists who trailed 7-3 at the break to their fearless opponents.

A Sam Anderson-Heather try and Bryn Gatland conversion had the hosts in front but the Lions – wasteful before the interval – took their chance when it came in the second period.

Owen Farrell – on for Jonathan Sexton in the second half – released his England teammate Watson down the right for the pivotal try before adding the extras.

And with Greig Laidlaw having also slotted a penalty, that proved to be enough for the tourists who head back to Auckland now to prepare for Wednesday’s clash with the Blues at Eden Park.

The Lions – who kicked off the 1993 Tour at this same stadium with a 30-17 win over North Auckland – were caught napping from kick-off to put the hosts immediately on the front foot.

DFP – In Article MPU

The home side – in keeping with their Barbarian spirit – then sent two kickable penalties to the corner but the Lions stood tall in defence, Ross Moriarty and Joe Marler particularly impressive.

Having finally relieved that early pressure, the Lions hit the front when Sexton – who had earlier missed his first attempt – slotted a penalty for a 3-0 lead after some strong carrying and offloading by the stand-out Ben Te’o.

The BaaBaas were up for the battle in front of a sell-out crowd however, Luteru Laulala and Inga Finau next to combine on the counter for what seemed a certain try before a jaw-dropping cover tackle from Taulupe Faletau saved the day.

The BaaBaas kept coming, an up-and-under from Gatland – who caught the eye throughout against his father’s side – caused confusion and from close range soon after, Anderson-Heather barged over.

Gatland added the simple extras and the hosts were 7-3 to the good with the half-hour approaching.

But the rest of the half was all Lions, Rory Best and Iain Henderson menaced at the breakdown while in attack Stuart Hogg started to showcase his dancing feet and Kyle Sinckler was everywhere.

But try as they might, they couldn’t breach the BaaBaas defence –Watson tackled into touch with the line beckoning before Faletau, Hogg and Joseph were all held up over the try-line in quick succession.

And while the BaaBaas ended the half camped on their own line, impressive scrambling saw them into the sheds with a 7-3 lead.

Having turned down a couple of kickable penalties before the interval, the Lions were not so wasteful as the second half commenced and Laidlaw – taking over duties from Sexton – slotted a penalty to reduce arrears to 7-6.

Farrell was then thrust into the fray before the 50th minute and with his Saracens teammates Mako Vunipola, George Kruis and Jamie George – as well as Tadhg Furlong – not far behind him, the Lions then hit the front.

Moriarty’s initial break came down the right before Farrell put his England teammate Watson over down the same short side, the replacement fly-half making no mistakes with the extras for a 13-7 scoreline.

The England fly-half then smashed the post with a penalty after the hour-mark when looking to make it a two-score game.

Rhys Webb – after fine build-up work by his fellow Welsh replacement Justin Tipuric – then came close to their second try that would have iced the game.

In the closing stages the Lions had to front up in defence against the valiant BaaBaas, but the red wall held firm – Vunipola with a fine late steal at a maul – to kick the Tour off with a hard-fought, but much-needed win.

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