Lions coach Gatland rails at New Zealand 'blocking'

Lions coach Gatland rails at New Zealand 'blocking'

Owen Farrell will be fit to play in the first Test for the British & Irish Lions against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday, according to Warren Gatland.

Finn Russell, Gareth Davies and Tomas Francis were all close to being original selections but, if they get on, Kristian Dacey, Allan Dell and Cory Hill will be under a certain amount of pressure to justify Gatland's faith in them.

The Wales global rolled his ankle in the opening tour game against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and has essentially been left playing catch up ever since, earning some further minutes in the 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks on Saturday.

But head coach Gatland has again reiterated his huge admiration for the back-row unit of Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau, that helped the Lions "squeeze the life" out of the Maori in Saturday's 32-10 triumph.

K Dacey (Wales), A Dell (Scotland), T Francis (Wales), C Hill (Wales), AW Jones (Wales), G Davies (Wales), F Russell (Scotland), T Seymour (Scotland).

The backline is anchored by Grieg Laidlaw and Dan Biggar with an all-Irish centre pairing of Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne with Liam Williams named at full-back alongside English wings Elliot Daly and Jack Nowell.

Hamilton native Gatland coached former All Blacks playmaker Stephen Donald in his early days at Waikato, and the two will go head to head on Tuesday, a game in which five Ireland players will start.

"They've got a number of guys who will be keen to play a bit of test footy on this tour and maybe it's a chance to scrap for some spots on the bench", he said.

"We're still not confirmed in a number of the combinations and finalising what we want at second row, back row, the back three combination, midfield".

Lions boss Warren Gatland aimed a jovial jibe at New Zealand counterpart Steve Hansen as he returned to home turf for Tuesday's game against the Chiefs. "That is normally a sign of a man that is a little bit anxious", Gatland said.

"If you listen to the ref mic, they were talking about it constantly through the game".

Donald became a New Zealand rugby folk hero in 2011 when, as the All Blacks' fourth-choice flyhalf, he took the field as a replacement in the World Cup final and kicked the winning penalty in the 8-7 win over France.

Liam Williams will play fullback against the Chiefs with the chance to fill the utility on the bench in the Test.

Opportunity knocked for the Lions starting XV in Rotorua on Saturday, and in nearly every combination and area of the game they grasped both it and the Maori by the scruff of the neck.

Iain Henderson, Greig Laidlaw, Dan Biggar and Elliot Daly are the only members of the squad from the Maoris' win to be involved at the FMG Stadium Waikato, the quartet, who all came off the bench on Saturday, handed starts against the Super Rugby franchise.

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