British & Irish Lions name team to face Maori All Blacks

Jonathan Davies is fit to play again. Picture: GettyJonathan Davies is fit to play again. Picture: Getty
Jonathan Davies is fit to play again. Picture: Getty

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Jonathan Davies has been passed fit after head injury trouble to start for the British and Irish Lions against the Maori All Blacks on Saturday.

Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony will captain the Lions, in a potent back-row also containing Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau.

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Johnny Sexton, Ben Te’o and Davies will forge a formidable midfield, while tour captain Sam Warburton takes a seat on the bench as he continues to fight back from ankle trouble.

Scotland scrum-half Greig Laidlaw is named on the bench but there is no place in the squad for fellow Scot Tommy Seymour.

O’Mahony’s status as captain could prove something of a statement of pecking order ahead of the first Test against the All Blacks on June 24, with Warburton racing against time to be fully fit for New Zealand.

“Peter is a proven captain with Munster who never takes a backward step and we believe that those leadership qualities will serve us well on Saturday against a quality and determined Maori All Blacks team,” said Lions head coach Warren Gatland.

“At this stage of the tour it is important to build on the foundations that have been laid in the last few weeks.”

Davies suffered a head knock in the 12-3 win over the Crusaders on Saturday, and is now fit to return as he chases the Lions’ 13 shirt for the first Test at Auckland’s Eden Park.

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The Lions have named the shell of a Test XV, with Leigh Halfpenny, Anthony Watson and George North certainly appearing the first-choice back-three combination.

The front row of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Tadhg Furlong is in pole position for Test selection, while Maro Itoje starts at lock alongside George Kruis given Alun Wyn Jones has had to feature in three consecutive matches.

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The Lions suffered their second defeat of the tour on Tuesday, 23-22 defeat against the Highlanders in Dunedin, and are now itching to hit back against the potent Maori.

“We were obviously disappointed with the loss against the Highlanders and realise that we need to improve in several areas, including our discipline, but we feel that overall we are building well towards the Test matches,” said Gatland.

“Every game is a big challenge, which is what we wanted, and this is an experienced Lions team with eight of the starting 15 involved in the last Test in Australia in 2013.”

Owen Farrell was originally named on the bench for Saturday’s match but has been ruled out with a “grade one” quad injury. He has been replaced by Wales fly-half Dan Biggar.

British and Irish Lions team to face the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua on Saturday:

L Halfpenny (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te’o (England), G North (Wales); J Sexton, C Murray (both Ireland); M Vunipola, J George (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), M Itoje, G Kruis (both England), P O’Mahony (capt, Ireland), S O’Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), I Henderson (Ireland), S Warburton (Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland), D Biggar (Wales), E Daly (England).