|Provincial Barbarians v British and Irish Lions|
|Date: 3 June Time: 08:35 BST Venue: Toll Stadium, Whangarei|
|Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.|
The British and Irish Lions launch their tour of New Zealand against the Provincial Barbarians – a match that is expected to be their least testing of the 10-game itinerary.
The blue skies of Auckland have given way to torrential rain in Whangarei, a portent of the challenges to come over the next five weeks.
Following Saturday’s opener, the Lions face all five Super Rugby teams, the Maori, and the All Blacks.
It is being called the toughest tour in history.
The Lions should – and must – start with a win against the Barbarians, a scratch side made up of fringe Super Rugby players.
Head coach Warren Gatland has named a starting XV largely made up of those who were in camp together before the tour, with captain Sam Warburton part of an all-Welsh back-row.
All three Scottish tourists – Greig Laidlaw, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg – are selected and, despite never having started a Test match for England, rookie prop Kyle Sinckler is in the front row.
Ben Te’o gets the nod at inside centre, with Ireland’s Johnny Sexton at fly-half.
But many eyes will be on Sexton’s opposite man. The Provincial Barbarians’ number 10 is Bryn Gatland, a 22-year-old who has represented the Auckland Blues and is the son of the Lions boss.
Gatland Sr expects his boy to be “making lots of tackles”, with the Lions likely to employ similar tactics to those they hope will nullify New Zealand and their kingpin fly-half Beauden Barrett.
And while potential Test starters such as Maro Itoje, Conor Murray and George North are being held back, the Lions are still able to field a strong-looking XV and powerful bench, an indication of the depth in the 41-man squad.
The Lions have been busy this week winning the hearts and minds of the public, but Gatland will know more than anybody that respect will only be gained on the pitch.
A recent survey found 78% of New Zealanders polled could not name a single Lions player, but a series win against the All Blacks would make them household names for decades to come.
Welsh great Barry John is still revered by Kiwis for his exploits in 1971, the only time the Lions have won in New Zealand.
What they say
Lions captain Sam Warburton: “We all know now that any game is a massive audition for the Test matches, so I’m really pleased to be involved in this first one.
“We’ve got a big squad, everyone’s excited and desperate to start. The guys are fresh, ready to go and in a good place.”
Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “For everyone the dream is to be involved in the Test matches, and it’s a chance for this 15 or 23 to do that and hopefully get the tour off to a good start.”
Provincial Barbarians captain Sam Anderson-Heather: “We come from far and wide and represent a lot of different things as individuals, but as a group we have come together to represent the grassroots of New Zealand rugby.”
The numbers that matter
- 6 – number of Lions who toured in 2013 in the starting XV (Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau, Johnny Sexton, Stuart Hogg)
- 754 – number of international caps in the Lions run-on side
- 20,000 – approximate number of Lions supporters expected to travel to New Zealand over the course of the tour
The local view
- “Respect is what the New Zealand Barbarians are after” – Andrew Johnsen in The Northern Advocate
- “Cherish the Lions while they are here” – Gregor Paul in the New Zealand Herald
The best of social media
Provincial Barbarians: L Laulala; S Vaka, I Finau, D Sweeney, S Reece, B Gatland, J Stratton, A Ross, S Anderson-Heather, O Jager, J Goodhue, K Mewett, J Tucker, L Boshier, M Dunshea.
Replacements: A Makalio, T Fahamokioa, M Renata, M Matich, P Rowe, R Judd, J Lowe, J Ngaluafe.
British and Irish Lions: S Hogg; A Watson, J Joseph, B Te’o, T Seymour; J Sexton, G Laidlaw; J Marler, R Best, K Sinckler, AW Jones, I Henderson, R Moriarty, S Warburton, T Faletau.
Replacements: J George, M Vunipola, T Furlong, G Kruis, J Tipuric, R Webb, O Farrell, E Daly.
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