British and Irish Lions: Sam Warburton to captain tour opener

It's an interesting read - pick up a copy if you haven't already - and seems pertinent given that the British & Irish Lions arrived in New Zealand to find that Steve Hansen has said he would have rejected the tour schedule had it been presented to his All Blacks team.

Captain Sam Warburton accepted the wero, or challenge, and manager John Spencer spoke before the Lions responded to the powhiri (Maori welcome ceremony) with a Welsh hymn Calon Lan.

"Some of the guys playing next week will have their first hit-out against one of the best club sides in the world", said Warburton in reference to the ensuing Wednesday and Saturday games against the Auckland Blues and unbeaten Crusaders.

All the curtailed preparation and time in the air seems bound to affect the Lions early, with Warburton preferring to talk long term, seek game-by-game improvement, and be ready for the first test.on June 24.

A glimmer of hope for the Lions lies in Ireland's win over the All Blacks in Chicago previous year, which ended the New Zealanders' winning run. The match is likely to be by far the easiest on tour.

Gatland has selected one of the largest touring squads in Lions history.

In all New Zealand have won 27 of the 35 matches and eight of the nine series between the two (the 1904 visitors played just one match, on the way home after winning a series in Australia 3-0).

Halfback Ben Youngs was initially named but withdrew for personal reasons, Grieg Laidlaw taking his place.

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That put the Irish centre out of the series with a serious shoulder injury.

23-man squad but Gatland is still able to field an experienced core, with a potent back line including Jonathan Sexton, Greig Laidlaw, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph and Stuart Hogg.

Sam Warburton skippers the British & Irish Lions in their opening match of the 2017 tour against the NZ Barbarians in a team that features Johnny Sexton at fly-half and Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row.

Warren Gatland's squad touched down in New Zealand last night determined to do better than Wilkinson did 2005. Whilst emerging stars such as; Ardie Savea, Anton Lienert-Brown and Rieko Ioane should play integral roles. "Maybe I enjoy it more as I'm older whereas when I was younger I was a rabbit in the headlights".

Wyllie said the Lions, who also play New Zealand's other four Super Rugby teams, will be competitive but face no easy matches against opponents more than happy to soften them up for the three-match test series.

All kick-offs will be 8:35am BST, subject to change.

Coverage: Live text commentary on every match on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.


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