Scotland’s wait for a Lions Test start will continue after no Scots were named in Warren Gatland’s squad for Saturday’s second Test clash with the All Blacks in Wellingon.
No Scotsman has played for the British & Irish Lions in 16 years as the streak stretches to 11 Test matches.
Sam Warburton will captain the squad for the second Test of this summer tour, with the visitors going for broke by starting both Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell.
Tour captain Warburton starts at blindside flanker for the Wellington encounter, replacing Peter O’Mahony, who led the Lions in their 30-15 opening Test defeat in Auckland.
Maro Itoje replaces George Kruis to partner Alun Wyn Jones at lock with Courtney Lawes on the bench as the Lions seek a route back into the three-Test series.
Ireland flanker O’Mahony drops out of the match 23 altogether, with international team-mate CJ Stander taking a seat on the Lions bench.
“We saw Maro Itoje’s impact in the first Test and he will bring an edge and a physicality, as will Sam Warburton in terms of pressure on the ball,” said Lions boss Gatland.
“It’s tough on Peter O’Mahony who has done a brilliant job for us. We had to look at the bench and we felt that CJ Stander’s ball carrying and defence was the right choice.
“You have to make the tough calls and pick what is the right team and the right combinations for a Test match.”
Head coach Gatland resisted the temptation to start the twin playmaking axis of Sexton and Farrell in the Eden Park loss, but has now rolled the dice with the series on the line.
Ben Te’o enjoyed a fine showing in the opening Test, especially in shutting down All Blacks danger man Sonny Bill Williams.
But the Worcester and England battering ram made just one mistake - slipping in attempting to cut inside and ignoring an overlap - and perhaps that was enough to convince Gatland that the Lions must stick to their plan to stretch New Zealand with width and pace.
“In terms of the backs we have gone with the Sexton-Farrell combination; both have played well and it gives us that attacking option in the 10-12 channel,” said Gatland.
“We created opportunities in the first Test and there were a few that we didn’t finish.
“There were lots of positives from the first Test but we were disappointed that we put ourselves in a position to put the All Blacks under pressure and to get back into the game and we let it slip.”
Exeter flyer Jack Nowell has also forced his way onto the bench in the 23 shirt, with the Lions not selecting a recognised outside-half on the bench, with Te’o and Rhys Webb the other backs among the replacements.
“This is a big chance for these players to go out and show what they are capable of on Saturday night,” said Gatland.
“For the players retained from the first Test it’s an opportunity for them to step up and to show an improvement because individually they were disappointed and you have another group coming in who are also desperate to seize their chance.”
BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS TEAM TO FACE NEW ZEALAND IN SECOND TEST
L Williams (Wales), A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), O Farrell, E Daly (both England), J Sexton, C Murray (both Ireland), M Vunipola, J George (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), M Itoje (England), AW Jones, S Warburton (both Wales, capt), S O’Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).
Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler, C Lawes (both England), CJ Stander (Ireland), R Webb (Wales), B Te’o, J Nowell (both England).