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Preview: Hurricanes v British & Irish Lions

Preview: Hurricanes v British & Irish Lions

The second Test will be at Westpac Stadium on the weekend, but before that there is Tuesday’s clash with the defending Super Rugby champions the Hurricanes to contend with.

But the mid-week side – led superbly by Rory Best – are full of confidence after downing the Chiefs last time out in Hamilton.

And Head Coach Warren Gatland has been clear from the start that places are still up for grabs in the Test side – so there is much riding on Tuesday night.

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Best skippers the exact same forward eight that dominated the Chiefs in Hamilton, so that means England props Joe Marler and Dan Cole are either side of the Ireland hooker.

Courtney Lawes and Iain Henderson are paired in the second row while James Haskell and Justin Tipuric are either side of CJ Stander in the back row.

Greig Laidlaw and Dan Biggar are also reunited from the Chiefs clash in the half backs but there are changes in the rest of the backline.

First of all Jack Nowell – two try hero in Hamilton – shifts to full back while George North looks to give his Test claims a boost on one wing with Tommy Seymour on the other.

And in midfield Robbie Henshaw is paired with Jonathan Joseph, as they were in the Highlanders game.

The bench is made up of the newer recruits, Allan Dell, Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill, Gareth Davies and Finn Russell with George Kruis and Jared Payne rounding out the replacements.


Rory Best on getting back to winning ways:

“All Tour we have talked about the next game being the most important one, now we get the chance to pull on the jersey on Tuesday and pull a bit of momentum back.

“I suppose it is a bit of a role reversal from earlier in the Tour but it is important for the whole squad that we get out and produce a performance for morale as much as anything.

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Jack Nowell on Test selection:

“Anything can happen when you are out here, the most pleasing thing is the coaches are changing it and to see Liam (Williams) and Elliot (Daly) in the Test side was pretty cool.

Courtney Lawes on his chances of staking a claim on Tuesday:

“I said before I came here that I wanted to be in the Test team, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get myself into the first Test. But on Tuesday, I am just going to do what I’ve been doing all season.

“I don’t think you get to this level without having a certain level of physicality. That is an area of my game that is up there, I suppose. But will it get me selected? We’ll see.”

Chris Boyd, Hurricanes head coach, on the unique challenge of facing the Lions

“It’s a fantastic event for our club, but also for the city of Wellington and the region, so hopefully the match will live up to its billing. We are looking forward to kick off.”


Defending Super Rugby champions the Hurricanes have been in superb form in 2017 and will take some stopping on Tuesday.

They have announced their side and it includes Julian Savea, Jordie Barrett, Vaea Fifita and Ngani Laumape who have all been released by the All Blacks.

Savea – who has 46 tries in 53 Tests for the All Blacks – missed out on selection for the first Test against the Lions so will be back in club colours at a sold-out Westpac on the left wing.

Fifita and the youngest Barrett brother both made their international debuts earlier this month against Samoa but return for the defending Super Rugby Champions at blindside flanker and full back respectively.

Laumape is still waiting for his All Blacks debut but the inside centre has scored 14 tries already this season for his club and re-forms his potent midfield partnership with Vince Aso.

Elsewhere, Brad Shields will lead out the side that includes both Nehe Milner-Skudder and Ben May who played against the Lions for the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua a week ago.

Cory Jane could also be in line to take on the Lions for a second time, he came off the bench back in 2005 for Wellington, and is a replacement again 12 years later.

HEAD TO HEAD: George North v Julian Savea

The battle of the two left wingers will make for intriguing viewing on Tuesday as the two behemoths put their hands up for Test selection.

Savea – who has 46 tries in 53 Tests for the All Blacks – missed out on selection for the first Test against the Lions to youngster Rieko Ioane.

But Ben Smith’s injury opens the door in the back three and a good performance on Tuesday could sway Steve Hansen.

And the same can be said for North – overlooked for the first Test for Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson – but looking to rediscover his best form in time for the Wellington clash.


In 2013 Warren Gatland made five changes to his starting XV from the first to second Tests – so places are still up for grabs.

Four of the starting XV are tourists from 2013 – Best, North, Tipuric and Cole – and they will be itching to plead their case for Test selection this time around.


The Westpac Stadium – nicknamed the ‘Cake Tin’ – opened its doors in 2000, as it replaced the historic Athletic Park, the scene of memorable Lions victories over the All Blacks from 1971 and 1993.

Built at a cost of NZ$130 million with a capacity of 34,500, it is a multi-purpose venue and is home to the Hurricanes Super Rugby franchise and the Wellington Mitre 10 Cup team, while it has also hosted the Welllington Sevens, as part of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

It also hosts football, with Wellington Phoenix of the Australian A-League calling it home since 2008, and cricket, with Wellington Firebirds taking part in New Zealand’s T20 competition.

The list of sports doesn’t stop there, as six rugby league internationals have taken place on its turf, including the 2014 Four Nations final, while it is also a major concert venue.

The stadium is also notable for film director Peter Jackson using the chanting of the crowd for a New Zealand v England cricket ODI in 2002 for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Like any other Test venue in New Zealand, the All Blacks have a formidable record there, with their last defeat coming in a 15-13 reverse against England back in June 2003.

The Lions played twice at the Westpac Stadium during their Tour of New Zealand in 2005, with their first visit producing a 23-6 victory over Wellington, thanks to tries by Gethin Jenkins and Gareth Thomas.

The second Test also took place there, with the Lions being defeated after Gareth Thomas’ early opening try, with All Blacks fly-half Dan Carter in dazzling form.


Romain Poite will take charge of his first game on Tour when the Hurricanes face the Lions on Tuesday night.

The Frenchman will also be the man in the middle for the third Test at Eden Park but on Tuesday he is in Wellington with Jerome Garces and Jaco Peyper his touch judges and Ian Smith as 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 and live on Radio on Talk Sport.


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Hurricanes leave it late to snatch draw with Lions

Hurricanes leave it late to snatch draw with Lions

After defeat at Eden Park last weekend, this had looked like being an impressive win for the tourists before Saturday’s second Test when Seymour and George North both crossed in a clinical first-half display.

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But the Lions had not had it all their own way, Callum Gibbins and Ngani Laumape both crossing for the home side either side of the break.

However, Seymour’s second before the hour-mark – with Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi in the sin-bin – looked like being enough allied to Dan Biggar’s 16-point haul from the tee.

But the reigning Super Rugby champions came storming back in the final quarter when the otherwise impressive Iain Henderson saw yellow.

And tries from Wes Goosen and All Black Vaea Fifita earned a share of the spoils in front of a raucous Westpac crowd as Biggar’s late drop goal fell short.

Head Coach Warren Gatland had made it clear all week that Test spots were still up for grabs and Jack Nowell – beginning the game at full back – looked keen to make an impression, getting his hands on the ball early and often in what was otherwise a scrappy start to the game.

The Lions front row – with 232 international caps between them – were also catching the eye in the opening exchanges, winning a free-kick and then a penalty from the first two scrums.

And when a lineout maul took the Lions into the Canes 22, the hosts went offside and Biggar slotted the tourists in front.

Henderson and Courtney Lawes were also impressing with a number of bustling carries, but the first Lions try actually came from their first period defending in their own 22 and it was Seymour who started and finished it.

The ball was spun right by the hosts but the Scotland winger made an enormous hit to disrupt an offload, the loose ball was snapped up by Greig Laidlaw and the scrum half burst clear before hitting his winger in stride with an offload from the deck that took Seymour clear under the posts untouched.

With Biggar’s simple conversion the Lions were 10-0 up with 20 minutes played – the only disappointment being an injury to Robbie Henshaw that brought Leigh Halfpenny on early as North slid into midfield with Nowell now on the wing.

The backline re-shuffle – with Halfpenny only a late call-up to the bench in the first place for Jared Payne – did little to unsettle the Lions however, and when Jonathan Joseph was tackled in the air Biggar banged over another penalty from near halfway to make it 13-0.

That lead probably flattered the tourists a little and the Hurricanes soon mustered a deserved response, Laumape with the initial bust before Glasgow-bound flanker Gibbins squeezed over from close range.

Jordie Barrett added the extras to make it 13-7 but the Lions hit back immediately when Ben May obstructed the restart, leaving Biggar a simple penalty to make it a nine-point lead.

And it got even better before the interval, Biggar launching an up and under that caused confusion and Henderson showed deft hands to release North to race clear.

Biggar added the extras to make it 23-7 and that was how it stayed until the break, although Julian Savea did make his first big carry of the evening to leave the Lions hanging on at the interval.

And in the second period the All Black winger picked up where he had left off, lovely interplay between him and Vince Aso releasing Laumape down the right and the centre – who has 14 tries in 14 games in Super Rugby this season – did the rest.

Barrett added the extras to reduce the Lions lead to 23-14 but Barrett then missed a long-range penalty that would have trimmed the Lions lead further.

Biggar then returned but it was the Canes still coming, another Barrett penalty in the 50th minute making it a one-score game at 23-17.

But then came what appeared to be the game’s decisive moment, Henderson’s chargedown establishing superb territory in the Canes 22 and when Tahuriorangi saw yellow for a high tackle, Biggar slotted the penalty and the Lions were 26-17 up and a man to the good.

A third try looked likely to follow shortly after and while Henderson was denied by the TMO – it was only a brief stay of execution as Seymour slid over down the left after good hands from Nowell and Halfpenny worked him clear.

George Kruis was now on for Courtney Lawes but Biggar’s conversion drifted wide and the Canes had a sliver of hope at 31-17.

The Lions thought they had a fourth when North dabbed down Joseph’s cute grubber after the hour-mark but his foot was just in touch and the Canes survived.

And when Henderson blotted an otherwise flawless copybook with a yellow card for a clear-out at a ruck, the momentum was back with the hosts and Goosen ghosted over down the right soon after.

Barrett’s extras meant it was back to a one-score game at 31-24 and soon after they had their fourth, Fifita bursting over from close range under the posts and when Barrett slotted the extras the game was level.

Halfpenny then spilled a bomb and the Canes were rampant in searching for the winning score in the closing moments, but the Lions fronted up manfully in defence and could have won it before Biggar’s drop kick fell short.

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