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Principale » Mako Vunipola says win over Crusaders was 'only a start' for Lions

Mako Vunipola says win over Crusaders was 'only a start' for Lions

15 Juin 2017

Wales' Leigh Halfpenny would be the current favourite to start at full-back in the Tests, but Payne could well offer a viable alternative - provided he can finally overcome his niggling calf problem.

Stuart Hogg remains the Lions' main injury concern pending an examination by a specialist into the facial injury he suffered as a result of a collision with Conor Murray 20 minutes into last Saturday's meeting with the Crusaders.

The 26-year-old battled through the fog of jet-lag as the Lions won their tour opener 13-7 over the Provincial Barbarians - but will be at full throttle for Tuesday's Highlanders clash in Dunedin.

"I thought [the referee] did a good job and I didn't have any issues with that", Gatland said.

"It's taken a couple of days, as it would, but what I think you'll see, hopefully, is the team to the forefront and the way he wants to play and perform for the boys".

It was the second loss of the 10-match tour for Warren Gatland's side, who scored tries through Jonathan Joseph, Tommy Seymour and captain Sam Warburton, with Dan Biggar adding two conversions and a penalty.

Scotland ticked off the first leg with a 34-15 win over Italy in Singapore.

A penalty count of 12-4 in Ireland's favour featured several scrum rulings against New Zealand, with loosehead prop Joe Moody penalised three times.

"He definitely would have been an option, that's why CJ Stander is backing up again".

"Young Vic" championed quick ball - "the firstest is the mostest", was one of his sayings - but it was his coaching philosophy and work in around the game which has laid the foundations for rugby in this part of the world.

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There was better news concerning the other Lions player to fail a HIA, Jonathan Davies.

But Gatland rejected those suggestions, emphasizing the Lions' ability to shut down a team that had averaged five tries per game in Super Rugby this season.

"I probably only missed one or two sessions, so my preparation hasn't changed a whole lot", said Warburton.

He is a very composed player, knows the game and never gets rattled.

In the three games played so far this tour, Gatland has continually rotated his squad in order to ensure everyone has gotten a start, that most have gotten to come off the bench and that as many player combinations as possible have been explored.

"I haven't had the phone call yet but I'm sure we'll talk", Luke Whitelock said ahead of the fourth match of the tour tonight.

"We want that competition, don't we?" The win was also an endorsement of Gatland's selection which saw the first outing on tour for a lineup of near test-strength.

"I think the Highlanders have got the underlining physicality". "But there are three Tests to get selected for, so it's not the be all and end all with the first one".

Hence the reason the penultimate midweek game against the Highlanderson Tuesday, before the first Test on Saturday week, carries more significance than might seem obvious at first glance.