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Gatland questions All Blacks' bench, Savea absence

23 Juin 2017

But it was no ordinary chat, ahead of no ordinary match.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read has returned to the starting team after nearly eight weeks out with a broken thumb, while winger Rieko Ioane was the only surprise selection for the world champions, replacing Julian Savea on the left wing. The skipper has set himself for this contest, but even he admits there will be a few butterflies around how he will cope.

But he rated the first Test of this Lions series as "probably the most important right now" in his illustrious career.

Sampson is a coach who is similarly unafraid to make daring calls, and his teams during England's run to third place at the 2015 World Cup were nearly impossible to predict, with line-ups tailored to the opposition after months of forensic preparation.

It was why Read's response to the question from a United Kingdom reporter was so telling. The All Blacks have no real weaknesses and shouldn't be troubled too much by a good Lions squad that has been too inconsistent so far during their tour.

Success in global rugby has come quickly to winger Rieko Ioane who will make his first test start for the All Blacks in Saturday's first test against the British and Irish Lions. "We've all played in Eden Park and we know how tough it is to win here".

Daly's strong showing in the 36-4 win over the Chiefs on Tuesday night appears to have swayed Gatland's mind to start him for the first Test, with Saracens-bound Williams also having impressed in Hamilton at full-back. "Well obviously we hope we do", he said, without revealing how the All Blacks would combat the threat.

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"And we were all sitting there watching the Crusaders game on the day we were in Switzerland (June 10), when they got the tour back on track a little bit".

"I didn't know that before we moved in". It's an exciting time for us.

The Lions defence has been one of the key factors in their successes on tour, but they stretch the limits of the offside line, particularly away from the ruck where they have been extremely effective at stopping the ball going wide.

"Most definitely not. We love winning". You have an old canny operator to take some of the sting out of it for 50 minutes and then suddenly put in a player who has phenomenal capacity for 30 minutes - that could be very good. Gatland was also the man who picked O'Driscoll for his first of 141 test caps against Australia in Brisbane in 1999.

Read said he has been taking a full part in contact training for the last week and a-half, and was confident in his ability to take care of his job out on Eden Park.

The emotions and adrenaline will kick in tomorrow and I'm really pumped for the Test match.

. "The emotions and adrenaline will kick in tomorrow and I'm really pumped for the Test match, so I won't be too anxious about myself". "And at some stage I reckon he will end up there because Sexton will come on, but Ben Te'o has earned his spot, hasn't he?"

"I'm going in with the same mindset which is that I've got to have an impact on the game but rather than it being off the bench it's from the first whistle".