The All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions have named their teams for the first Test at Eden Park on Saturday – and there are selection surprises on both sides of the fence.
The hosts’ bolter is 20-year-old Rieko Ioane, named on the wing ahead of Waisake Naholo. Ioane had a blinder in the Blues’ upset of the Lions, but Naholo – a veteran of 12 Tests – was even better as the Highlanders edged out the tourists, and scored a brilliant double against the Crusaders in his most recent Super Rugby outing.
Israel Dagg is on the other wing, which also means there’s no room for Julian Savea.
Neither Julian Savea nor Waisake Naholo can crack the 23. Incredible options. Reiko Ioane was superb for Auckland Blues against the Lions. https://t.co/QmYmvUiMDt
— Michael Kelleher (@M__Kelleher) June 21, 2017
Meanwhile, Ryan Crotty has secured the No.13 jumper ahead of incumbent Anton Lienert-Brown, partnering Sonny Bill Williams in the midfield, and halfback Aaron Smith has staved off the challenge of TJ Perenara for another week. The forward pack virtually picked itself, with Kieran Read returning from injury to lead the world champs.
The Lions’ big shock comes in the form of tour captain Sam Warburton failing to win a place in the back-row. Ireland’s Sean O’Brien has been named in the No.7 jersey, with countryman and blindside flanker Peter O’Mahony assuming the captaincy. Welshman Warburton will come off the bench.
No Sam Warburton starting? No one would have predicted that prior to this tour. #LionsNZ2017
— Michael Pulman (@realmikepulman) June 22, 2017
Owen Farrell has beaten Johnny Sexton to the No.10 spot, while Ben Te’o – a veteran of one Test start for England – is outside him, pairing up with Wales’ Johnathan Davies in the centres.
England hooker Jamie George will start a Test match for the first time, Liam Williams gets the fullback spot, and Alun Wyn Jones has tipped Maro Itoje out to partner George Kruis in the second-row.
FIRST TEST LINE-UPS
15. Ben Smith, 14. Israel Dagg, 13. Ryan Crotty, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Sam Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (captain).
Replacements: 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown.
— All Blacks (@AllBlacks) June 21, 2017
British and Irish Lions
15. Liam Williams, 14. Anthony Watson, 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Ben Te’o, 11. Elliot Daly, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Tahg Furlong, 4. Alun Wyn Jones, 5. George Kruis, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain), 7. Sean O’Brien, 8. Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: 16. Ken Owens, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Maro Itoje, 20. Sam Warburton, 21. Rhys Webb, 22. Jonathan Sexton, 23. Leigh Halfpenny.
📽️ TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT 📽️
The 23 Lions to face @AllBlacks at Eden Park are…
— British&Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) June 21, 2017