|Third Test: New Zealand v British and Irish Lions|
|Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: Saturday, 8 July Kick-off: 08:35 BST|
|Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app. Listen to post-match reaction on the Lions Social, 11:00 BST, BBC Radio 5 live.|
The British and Irish Lions will take to the field with “a glint in their eyes” as they look to “create history” in Saturday’s series decider against the All Blacks in Auckland.
After a thrilling second-Test win last weekend, the Lions will start the third and final meeting as underdogs.
New Zealand have not lost consecutive home matches since 1998 and have not been beaten at Eden Park in 23 years.
But Lions captain Sam Warburton has “unfinished business” in the decider.
The Welsh flanker, 28, missed the series-clinching third Test win over Australia in 2013 with a hamstring injury and has been beset by injuries in recent years.
He missed six weeks at the end of the domestic season with a knee injury, and suffered a fractured cheekbone in October 2016. He was also on the bench for the first Test after suffering an ankle knock.
“It feels like all the sacrifice over the past four years and all the little things I have done have come to this moment,” Warburton told BBC Sport.
Now they go into the decider knowing they can achieve a first series win in New Zealand since 1971.
Assistant coach Rob Howley spoke of the “glint in the eyes” of the Lions players since that Wellington win and, although fly-half Johnny Sexton said he “struggles to enjoy it sometimes with the nerves”, he acknowledged that he and his team-mates “have to cherish” a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Head coach Warren Gatland has spoken of the Lions “achieving something special” and “creating a legacy”, but his counterpart Steve Hansen has attempted to play down the importance.
“Is the series hugely significant? Of course it is. Will it define this team? No, because there is a heck of a lot more of this story to be written,” said former police officer Hansen.
“We are expected to win every Test match, and win well. But we are only playing a rugby game. Real pressure is when you’ve got to spend half an hour giving someone CPR and trying to save their life.”
Going into the second Test, the All Blacks appeared settled and confident, while it was Gatland and the Lions who were experimenting with selection.
A week later and Gatland has named an unchanged 23, while Hansen has drafted in two rookies in the back line, Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett, to deal with a minor injury crisis.
The series started with New Zealand fielding the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith; it finishes with Hansen gambling on youth.
However the forward pack are still bursting with experience, with skipper Kieran Read becoming only the seventh man to win 100 All Blacks caps.
As for the Lions, Howley has spoken of their big-game players, with nine of the 23 featuring in the victorious third Test against Australia four years ago.
The captain that day was Alun Wyn Jones, who on Saturday plays in his ninth consecutive Lions Test, a longer run than anyone else in the professional era.
Wing Anthony Watson is fit to take his place in the side. This is despite being on the receiving end of a shoulder to the head from Williams that earned the New Zealand centre a red card and left the Bath man requiring assessment.
“I remember everything,” said Watson. “I had to brace myself for it, I guess, but it’s part and parcel of the game.
“He messaged me on Twitter to say there was no intention, and I don’t doubt that.”
BBC Radio 5 live rugby union reporter Chris Jones
While All Blacks assistant coach Wayne Smith says his side “do a lot of work” on the opposition before big games, the Lions management insist the tourists have been solely focusing on themselves.
“We haven’t even spoken about them,” said Gatland on Thursday.
Either way, the tactical battle between the two sets of coaches will be fascinating.
Hansen et al took the Lions by surprise with their forward-orientated style in Auckland while, despite preconceptions, it’s the Lions who have played a more expansive game across the Tests, outscoring the All Blacks by two tries to none in Wellington, albeit with a man advantage.
But would this series be wrapped up already if Williams had stayed on the field at the Westpac? Or have the Lions developed an all-round gameplan to shock the All Blacks?
These questions will be answered come Saturday evening.
What they say
Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “They have the chance to do something special. You have those moments in your life and you don’t want those moments to pass you by.”
Lions captain Sam Warburton: “I can’t imagine any team has better support than the Lions do.”
All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen: “We could win, lose or draw, but we will be a better team for it.”
4 – Number of tries scored by the Lions in the Test series, compared to three by the hosts
19 – Number of years since the All Blacks lost twice in a row at home
38 – Number of matches since the All Blacks lost at Eden Park
56 – Minutes the All Blacks played with 14 men in the second Test in Wellington
80 – Number of years since the All Blacks lost a series having won the opener
20,000 – Minimum number of Lions fans expected at 45,000-capacity Eden Park
What the locals say
“Red Army look to pour boiling oil on Kiwi plebs at Fortress Eden Park” – www.stuff.co.nz
“All the angst of a World Cup final” – Wynne Gray in the New Zealand Herald.
“Bring it home boys!!!” – 2009 and 2013 Lion @jamieheaslip.
“The Lions is alive & well.” – Lions legend @brianODriscoll after the 2nd Test victory.
Lions: Liam Williams (Wales); Anthony Watson (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Owen Farrell (England), Elliot Daly (England); Johnny Sexton (Ireland), Conor Murray (Ireland); Mako Vunipola (England), Jamie George (England) Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales) Sam Warburton (capt, Wales), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Taulupe Faletau (Wales)
Replacements: Ken Owens (Wales), Jack McGrath (Ireland), Kyle Sinckler (England), Courtney Lawes (England), CJ Stander (Ireland), Rhys Webb (Wales), Ben Te’o (England), Jack Nowell (England)
New Zealand: Jordie Barrett; Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea; Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa.
|Lions tour fixtures|
|3 June||Provincial Barbarians||Won 13-7|
|7 June||Blues||Lost 22-16|
|10 June||Crusaders||Won 12-3|
|13 June||Highlanders||Lost 23-22|
|17 June||Maori All Blacks||Won 32-10|
|20 June||Chiefs||Won 34-6|
|24 June||New Zealand||Lost 30-15|
|27 June||Hurricanes||Drew 31-31|
|1 July||New Zealand||Won 24-21|
|8 July||New Zealand|