Rugby Union: Trial match confirms All Blacks' quality: Lions witness Kiwi strength

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The Independent Online
THE LIONS yesterday had their first good look at the All Blacks, or most of them anyway, when the Probables beat the Possibles 18-15 in the final New Zealand trial at Pukekohe.

'We didn't see anything we didn't already know,' Ian McGeechan, the Lions coach, said after seeing the game on television. 'We don't expect major changes, but I don't think it's good for me to discuss the All Blacks.'

There was nothing much to heighten the Lions' anxiety before the first Test in Christchurch on 12 June, though the quality of the rugby was highly impressive. 'It shows that we have an abundance of talented players pushing the guys in the Test side,' Laurie Mains, the New Zealand coach, said.

The senior side - containing as many as 12 of the likely Test team - were matched for tries and won the game only through a late penalty by Matthew Cooper. He was playing in place of the injured full-back John Timu, who is expected to be fit to face the Lions for Otago on Saturday. Grant Fox and Frank Bunce were other late withdrawals who will certainly be in the selection to be announced tomorrow.

That is also the day that the Lions management will, in effect, reveal their preferred Test team when they name the XV to play Otago. Richard Webster's chances were dealt a serious blow yesterday when his ankle injury caused his withdrawal from today's match against Canterbury, the second in succession he has had to miss.

To spare Peter Winterbottom from his third game in a week, Ben Clarke was brought in at open-side flanker, where the England No 8 had not played since he was at school seven years ago.

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