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Gatland excited to see new combinations in match action

Head Coach Warren Gatland cannot wait for Saturday to come and get a first look at some exciting British & Irish combinations against the NZ Provincial Barbarians.

“We are pretty excited about the potential of a lot of combinations over the next few games..”

The first of the Lions’ ten matches sees an all-Welsh back row of captain Sam Warburton, Ross Moriarty and Taulupe Faletau and an all-English midfield of Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph.

It will be the first time that the likes of Te’o and Joseph will pull on the famous red jersey and Gatland is excited to see what his squad can produce.

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And after naming his first team on Thursday morning, Gatland has already begun planning for the next two games on Tour against the Blues and the Crusaders.

“This is a great opportunity for the players that have been selected for the first match to go out and lay down a marker,” he said.

“For everyone the dream is to be involved in the Test matches and there is a chance with this XV to go out there and do that and hopefully get the Tour off to a good start.

“From a coaching point of view, we are pretty excited about the potential of a lot of combinations over the next few games.

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“We are starting to think now about potentials and possibilities for the Blues game and for the Crusaders as well.”

But there will be no quarter given to his son Bryn – who today was named at fly-half for the Barbarians side.

“I spoke to him (Bryn) last night and he has been enjoying the week,” he added.

“We will catch up tomorrow. He will expect to have to make a few tackles on the weekend but in all honesty we haven’t spoken too much about the game.

“But I am looking forward to facing him.”

Tour captain Warburton will lead the Lions out at the Toll Stadium in Whangarei as they look to set a positive tone early in New Zealand.

The Cardiff Blues flanker had to wait until the third game on Tour to pull on the iconic Lions jersey four years ago but faces no similar delays this time around.

The flanker is excited to get going after being named to skipper the side for Saturday’s Tour opener against the NZ Provincial Barbarians.

“I felt like I was chasing it four years ago, I was the last guy on the whole Tour to play a fixture so it’s nice this time to get a jersey in the kit bag and say you’ve done it,” he said.

“Four years ago I was constantly panicking about whether I was going to get a game and whether I was going to pull through.

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“Everyone was playing and getting their jerseys back and you envy that so it’s really nice I can get the ball rolling and hopefully stay fit and get a good few fixtures under my belt.

“I will need a good few games to hit my straps but we all know every game is a massive audition for the Tests so I am delighted I am involved in this first one.”

The Lions have now been in camp for the best part of three weeks and had their first proper rugby session on Thursday at QBE Stadium in Auckland.

On Friday they will head north to Whangarei to take on the Baa Baas side who themselves only came together as a squad a week ago.

“The focus for the first game is very much on ourselves,” added Warburton.

“We have got footage available of the players selected but the focus is on us, this game.

“We have had a long time to prepare for it so I feel as a team we are in quite a good place for a first hit out – we are not short of preparation.”

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