Published: Fri, June 16, 2017
Sport | By Gary Shelton

Lions need to step up against Maori as tests loom

Lions need to step up against Maori as tests loom

Victory in the unofficial fourth Test against the Maori All Blacks could prove absolutely vital to the success of this Lions tour but they will be without Owen Farrell on Saturday.

By the time Jamie Heaslip pulled out of the Ireland side to face England at the Aviva Stadium in the final match of the championship, forcing a back-row reshuffle that meant O'Mahony was promoted from the bench, the 27-year-old was ready to take seize his chance. The Lions coach may have been considering playing Farrell at inside centre, outside the Ireland halves pairing of Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton, but that option seems to have been removed. I'd rather him barking and yapping at us than not saying a word.

With the injured Stuart Hogg on his way home, Leigh Halfpenny starts at full-back with George North and Anthony Watson on the wings.

The other replacements are Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinklair, Iain Henderson, Greig Laidlaw and Elliot Daly.

'We've got to make sure we're controlling all the controllables, ' said O'Brien.

"Now it's just about trying to better yourself and keep working on little things in your game, and if things start to pan out later in the season, that's another bonus".

"We know that's going to come - it was surprising that it didn't come earlier [in the tour] but in the Christchurch game we certainly saw it".

"This is my third game I have been involved in and this is my opportunity".

"It's pretty exciting, I'm looking forward to the challenge".

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It does not develop me I need to find something else if we cannot agree. "I try to focus on my football". As such, the striker is not getting ahead of himself as a result of his lack of game time.

Hikatarewa "Hika" Reid, who played for both the All Blacks and the New Zealand Māori team during the 1980s, says it's great to see the exhibition in Rotorua - the heart of Te Arawa.

The Maori side had been preparing for the Lions' "aerial attack" since their 27-14 loss to Munster in November a year ago, said Cooper.

STEVE HANSEN IS never afraid of a mind game or two, and the All Blacks boss' latest mischievous suggestion is that Warren Gatland is about to call in a crop of reinforcements in order to split his Lions squad into two.

Ash Dixon captains the side from hooker as part of a pack which includes Elliot Dixon, Liam Messam and Akira Ioane.

"Samoa is about to kick off the qualifying stage of their Rugby World Cup campaign, so this will make them even more risky", Hansen said. The Maoris actually played the Lions before the full New Zealand side did.

Sexton will start Saturday's Maori All Blacks clash at fly-half and will be itching to prove his Test-match mettle all over again.

A capacity crowd is expected this weekend but the Lions are no strangers to Rotorua, having defeated the Bay of Plenty on the same soil in 2005.

The lock sees the match as the flawless opportunity to prepare for the first test against the British and Irish Lions on 24th June.

Every game of the tour will be shown on Sky Sports 1 at 8:35am BST (7.35pm local) and live on radio on Talk Sport.

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