Rugby Union: Barnes to lead the Lions in tour opener: Reluctant Hastings held back for second match against North Harbour

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The Independent Online
THE LIONS caused the first stir of their tour last night when they settled on Stuart Barnes as captain for Saturday's tour opener against North Auckland in Whangarei, leaving Gavin Hastings to take his rightful place against North Harbour next Wednesday.

Anthony Clement is the full- back. Hastings's assignment to the bench is a break with tradition that probably had as much to do with the relative merits of these two provincial sides as the simple division of resources between the opening games to which Geoff Cooke, the Lions manager, referred.

The reasoning is that backs may well be more firmly to the wall in the second match than the first. North Auckland will be hard enough even if they are down in the New Zealand Second Division but, as North Harbour's selection shows, the Lions' next opponents will pose an awesome threat to the remaining 15 tourists who will make their tour debut in Auckland.

'I'm captain of the Lions but you'll all realise that I wasn't going to play in every game on tour; if that means missing the first one, so be it,' Hastings said, however reluctantly. 'It's more important that we pick the sides we want than the ones people expect or would wish us to pick.'

It is a signal honour for Barnes to lead the Lions on such an auspicious occasion so soon after his England recall, though the Bath stand-off does have more recent captaincy experience in New Zealand than any other home-union player, from last year's England B tour.

'I'm an experienced captain, so if I'm playing in a game when Gavin isn't playing it's not a great surprise that I'm captain,' Barnes said last night. This will be his second game outside Robert Jones, the two having been the Barbarians' half-backs against Australia last November.

Martin Bayfield is chosen despite failing to complete yesterday's double training session because of a leg injury. If he fails to respond as expected to treatment, Damian Cronin will replace him in the second row.

Tony Underwood, recovering from an ear infection, joined the afternoon session but is better off sitting this one out. On the other hand, he may not feel that way once he plays in Auckland, since North Harbour have three current All Blacks - Bunce, Little and Strachan - and another seven who have represented New Zealand at various levels. Their team are almost exactly those who ended an otherwise disappointing Super 10 by trouncing Northern Transvaal 11 days ago.

BRITISH ISLES (v North Auckland, Whangarei, 22 May): A Clement (Wales); I Hunter (England), S Hastings (Scotland), J Guscott, R Underwood; S Barnes (England, capt), R Jones (Wales); J Leonard, B Moore (England), P Wright (Scotland), M Bayfield (England), A Reed (Scotland), M Galwey (Ireland), B Clarke (England), R Webster (Wales). Replacements: G Hastings (Scotland), R Andrew, D Morris (England), K Milne, P Burnell (Scotland), D Richards (England).

North Harbour (v British Isles, Auckland, 26 May): I Calder; R Kapa or E Rush, F Bunce, W Little, T Tagaloa; J Carter, A Strachan; K Boroevich, G Dowd, R Williams, B Larsen, D Mayhew, A Perelini, R Turner (capt), L Barry.