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Impregnable fortress Eden Park a test for Lions

23 Juin 2017

The big test against the All Blacks is whether they will provide that space to an attacking back three of Liam Williams, Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly, with coach Warren Gatland choosing the trio in the knowledge the Lions will need to score tries to beat the world champions.

Presenting the test jerseys has always been viewed as a hugely significant honour, not least for the pivotal first test, and aside from being an entirely fitting choice as an iconic former Lion, the selection of O'Driscoll by Warren Gatland, and O'Driscoll's willingness to do so at the squad's hotel in Auckland last night, underlines the powerful spirit of the Lions. "We have looked at that game and certain things we did we will try and implement as well, but again it is a new group of players, it's a completely different task but to know that it can be done is definitely something we are going to build off". "We came through the academy together, I've been throwing to George since I was 18 and the way that he's progressed as a lineout leader and caller has been unbelievable".

When I toured there with the British & Irish Lions in 2005 we had a squad full of great players, but in the build-up to the first Test we changed our game-plan too much and were unsure of our core moves and lineouts.

We need to have the confidence and ability to bring an offloading game in when it's appropriate, and we've been trying to do that.

The surprise selection was Rieko Ioane ahead of the vastly more experienced Julian Savea on the wing. It is interesting, however, that it was Savea (a traditional winger) who was dropped rather than Isreal Dagg who plays most of his Super Rugby games at fullback.

Conor Murray is at scrum-half while Ben Te'o and Jonathan Davies are named in midfield.

"If I'm getting up his nose, that's a good position to be in", the New Zealander said.

Asked how he was feeling as the series opener draws closer, the All Blacks coach said: "Pretty cool, calm and excited".

"Worry is a wasted emotion". If you are anxious about results or what could happen, your mind is off the job.

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Barkley, 23, burst onto the Goodison Park scene six years ago - tipped to be the latest Merseyside superstar since Wayne Rooney. The 23-year-old is blessed with vast potential and Pochettino could certainly be the man to unearth it.

"It's the busiest time since, I would say, the Rugby World Cup in 2011", he said.

"I just think O'Brien will be the last guy the All Blacks want to come up against; he'd be an absolute nightmare to face and could be the difference between winning and losing overall on tour".

"He was elusive", Gatland said of Williams.

"I was anxious because the midweek team wasn't doing what they were supposed to". "Yes, but we've got to be smart and we've got to be able to adapt while we're on the pitch".

"Let's let the rugby do the talking because there's been enough trash talking already".

O'Mahony was handed leadership duties for Saturday's clash at the All Blacks' fortress of Eden Park despite only skippering Ireland three times, relegating tour captain Sam Warburton to the bench.

The Test is to take place at Eden Park in Auckland, where the All Blacks are undefeated in 23 years.

The Lions' own record in New Zealand is bleak: in 38 Tests against the All Blacks‚ the Lions have lost 29 and won six with three draws.