The British and Irish Lions will face the All Blacks for the first time in 12 years this month when the two sides collide at Eden Park in Auckland in what will be the first of three Tests, with the Lions looking to avenge their 3-0 whitewash in 2005.
Having embarked on a 10-match tour of New Zealand, Warren Gatland’s side have ensured that they will be fully prepared when they meet the reigning world champions, having lined up all five of the New Zealand Super Rugby teams as part of their warm-up plans.
As well as those five sides, the Lions have played the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians and the Maori All Blacks, and while they look on course to be ready for the first Test, the tour has not gone without its hiccups along the way.
British and Irish Lions player ratings vs Maori All Blacks
British and Irish Lions player ratings vs Maori All Blacks
1/15 Leigh Halfpenny – 8 out of 10
Meticulous with the boot as he successfully kicked all seven of his kicks at goal, with his only blemish a mix-up with George North that led to the Maoris try. Took a good catch when contesting an attacking high ball and looked an assured pair of hands.
2/15 Anthony Watson – 6 out of 10
Rarely given the chance to show what he can do with the ball in hand. Chased Davies’ second kick hard to put Lowe under pressure, and disrupted the high ball when up against Reiko Ioane.
3/15 Jonathan Davies – 6 out of 10
Made a very good early break before skipping past the attempted tackle from James Lowe that went without reward. His two smart kicks into the Maori 22 during the same flowing move led to the 5m scrum that brought the penalty try.
4/15 Ben Te’o – 6 out of 10
Another strong showing that was highlighted by a surging run through the gut of the Maori defensive line late in the game and immaculate defending without the ball. His Test chances probably lie in the balance though depending on Owen Farrell’s fitness.
5/15 George North – 6 out of 10
One strong attacking run to get over the gain line, and while he was to blame for not taking the loose ball before Liam Messam’s early try, he did exceptionally well to collect the ball and break two tackles before running the ball out.
6/15 Johnny Sexton – 7 out of 10
Sexton is growing into the tour and enjoyed another good performance that started with an early break through the line and inside offload to Tadhg Furlong. Good kicking from hand that was demonstrated when a switch-kick went into the touch within inches of the post, and is forcing his way back into the Test side.
7/15 Conor Murray – 8 out of 10
His box-kicks were on the money again as you now expect, and the one blotch in his record was taking the ball out of the scrum when it was still going forwards. Accurate passing and good link-up with Sexton, and he also did well to wear a big hit from Tawera Kerr-Barlow early on.
8/15 Mako Vunipola – 7 out of 10
He was his usual immovable self with the ball in hand as he did his share of the carrying, and also brought a presence in the ruck that has rarely been seen before. The standout Test loosehead.
9/15 Jamie George – 7 out of 10
Unlucky not to have a try when the pack shoved George over the line, with the TMO ruling the footage “inconclusive”. The lineout functioned exemplary once again with a 100 per cent record, though George is happy to have so many targets to throw to.
10/15 Tadhg Furlong – 8 out of 10
Tore opposite number Kane Hames apart in the scrum, with the Maori loosehead he was lucky not to be sent to the sin-bin when the front-row was repeatedly collapsing on his side. Carried well bar one hit when he was shoved backwards, and good supporting line on Sexton’s shoulder made an incisive break.
11/15 Maro Itoje – 8 out of 10
Picked out twice for penalties in the first half, the first a needless offence for throwing the ball away after being caught in the maul. However, he fought back very well in the second half, bagging a try, and also won a penalty on the stroke of half-time when the Lions were up against it.
12/15 George Kruis – 7 out of 10
A general when it comes to the lineout and he also put in a shift with the ball in hand. A Test must.
13/15 Peter O’Mahony – 7 out of 10
The Munster skipper led the side by example with a very aggressive defensive display, and he also got onto the right side of referee Jaco Peyper that showed in the way they communicated. May have played his way into Test captaincy.
14/15 Sean O’Brien – 7 out of 10
Is making the No 7 shirt his own and could be the man that forces Sam Warburton out of the side. Very good over the ball in the ruck and also put in two big tackles.
15/15 Taulupe Faletau – 7 out of 10
Not as prominent as we’ve been used to on this tour, and given the pack was always on the front foot, that was something of a surprise. Played well defensively though and still a nailed-on Test starter.
Two warm-up defeats have seen the Lions receive a fair level of criticism in New Zealand, but they have also won their two hardest matches against the Crusaders and the Maori, and given it looked like Gatland selected close to his Test team for those games, there is optimism that they will prove a worthy opponent for the All Blacks.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Lions tour of New Zealand.
Fixtures and results:
New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 7-13 British and Irish Lions, Toll Stadium, 3 June.
Blues 22-16 British and Irish Lions, Eden Park, 7 June.
Crusaders 3-12 British and Irish Lions, AMI Stadium, 10 June.
Highlanders 23-22 British and Irish Lions, Forsyth Barr Stadium, 13 June.
Maori All Blacks 10-32 British and Irish Lions, Rotorua International Stadium, 17 June.
Chiefs 6-34 British and Irish Lions, Waikato Stadium, 20 June.
New Zealand vs British and Irish Lions first Test, Eden Park, 24 June. Kick-off: 8:35am GMT
Hurricanes vs British and Irish Lions, Westpac Stadium, 27 June. Kick-off: 8:35am GMT
New Zealand vs British and Irish Lions, second Test, Westpac Stadium, 1 July. Kick-off: 8:35am GMT
New Zealand vs British and Irish Lions, third Test, Eden Park, 8 July. Kick-off: 8:35am GMT
Props: Mako Vuniola, Joe Marler, Jack McGrath, Tadhg Furlong, Kyle Sinckler, Dan Cole, Allan Dell*, Tomas Francis*.
Hookers: Jamie George, Ken Owens, Rory Best, Kristian Dacey*.
Locks: George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, Iain Henderson, Courtney Lawes, Cory Hill*.
Flankers: Peter O’Mahony, James Haskell, Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien, Justin Tipuric.
No 8s: Taulupe Faletau, CJ Stander.
Scrum-halves: Conor Murray, Rhys Webb, Greig Laidlaw, Gareth Davies*.
Fly-halves: Owen Farrell, Johnny Sexton, Dan Biggar, Finn Russell*.
Centres: Ben Te’o, Robbie Henshaw, Jonathan Davies, Jonathan Joseph.
Wings: George North, Elliot Daly, Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Jack Nowell.
Full-backs: Leigh Halfpenny, Jared Payne.
(* denotes player call-ups)
New Zealand squad:
Props: Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Owen Franks, Joe Moody, Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Hookers: Dane Coles, Codie Taylor, Nathan Harris.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Samuel Whitelock.
Back-row: Sam Cane, Jerome Kaino, Kieran Read, Ardie Savea, Liam Squire.
Scrum-halves: Tawera Kerr-Barlow, TJ Perenara, Aaron Smith.
Fly-halves: Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden, Lima Sopoaga.
Centres: Ryan Crotty, Ngani Laumapa, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams.
Back three: Jordie Barrett, Israel Dagg, Rieko Ioane, Waisake Naholo, Julian Savea, Ben Smith.Reuse content