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Video: Selection for first Test will be toughest yet says Rowntree

The Lions coaches face their toughest selection meeting yet ahead of the first Test – according to assistant coach Graham Rowntree.

“Last night quite a few of them put their hands up.”

The tourists claimed an impressive 34-6 victory over the Chiefs on Tuesday night in Hamilton to head to Auckland with plenty of momentum.

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After last weekend’s record win over the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua – optimism is high ahead of taking on the All Blacks in the first Test at Eden Park on Saturday.

And Rowntree admits it will be a heated debate in Wednesday’s selection meeting after a number of impressive performances in Hamilton.

“Selection for the Tour, picking the squad every week has been tough,” he said.

“It is going to be even tougher, but we will meet later on today (Wednesday) as coaches and a few guys put their hands up last night. That will not be ignored, it will be taken under consideration.

“We have got a real challenge, it was always going to be a big debate because the quality of the squad is such, last night quite a few of them put their hands up.”

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Rowntree’s area of expertise is the scrum and the Harlequins coach has been impressed with what he has seen from the Lions forwards on Tour.

They will need to find another level again against the All Blacks – described by Rowntree himself as the best set-piece in the world.

“They have a very efficient and excellent lineout, particularly with Kieran Read in the mix, and in the scrum – my department – they have been leading the charge for quite a long time now, exceptionally well coached by Mike Cron,” he added.

“They are an honest team, an efficient honest forward pack and we have got our hands full but luckily we have had some good challenges over the last two weeks and I am really happy with how the boys have adapted.

“You saw the challenges we had at scrum time in Otago, against the Crusaders as well against an All Blacks front five, but the guys have learned and are adapting well.

“Those challenges, those encounters are what we need to be able to learn and step up a gear for this pack at the weekend which as I said, I think is the best in the world.”

The victory in Hamilton came at no cost – with all players reporting fit on Wednesday morning and Rowntree knows that could be crucial this weekend.

“The boys are in good nick, we have trained them hard and fast. We have to, to play the All Blacks, the ball is on the field for a long time, it is a quick game,” he added.

“We have put them under a lot of stress in training and they are fit, and we have done pretty good injury wise and the guys are ready to go.

“Those guys last night would quite happily back up again on the weekend if we wanted them to, I have seen that before on previous Lions Tours, you can play in that midweek game and still back up the Test.

“We have got a healthy squad all chomping at the bit.”

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