Lions coach Gatland wants to end 'trash talk'

Warren Gatland and Peter O'Mahony
Warren Gatland (right) has named Peter O'Mahony (left) as captain for the first Test
New Zealand v British and Irish Lions, first Test
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland Date: Saturday, 24 June Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the On Events Sport website and app

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland says he wants to end the "trash talk" in the build-up to Saturday's first Test against New Zealand.

Gatland wants "rugby to do the talking" when the tourists meet the All Blacks in Auckland (08:35 BST kick-off).

The New Zealander, who on Thursday named his team for the game, did say he was happy to be "getting up the nose" of All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen.

But he added: "It's not about me - this is about the Lions."

Hansen has criticised the Lions' style of play and suggested last week that morale in the tourists' camp could be damaged by Gatland adding six players to his squad.

But speaking on Thursday, he said: "It's not about the coach. Well, it shouldn't be.

"It's got to be about the team and what you're trying to do as a team, and what you're trying to build."

Team news - who is in and who is out?

Ireland flanker Peter O'Mahony will skipper the Lions at Eden Park after impressing in the back row in the final tour game against Maori All Blacks. Tour captain Sam Warburton is among the replacements.

Welshman Liam Williams and England's Elliot Daly are surprise inclusions in the back three, alongside another Englishman, Anthony Watson.

England's Maro Itoje misses out to former Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones in the second row.

Kieran Read has been named as All Blacks skipper after returning from injury.

Gatland said: "We know it's going to be a tough encounter. Let's let the rugby do the talking because there's been enough trash talking already.

"Let's get excited about what could be a fantastic series. A couple of sideline things have taken the focus away from that."

Peter O'Mahony British and Irish Lions
Peter O'Mahony will skipper the Lions in the first test

'We need a strong set-piece'

The first of the three Tests between the sides takes place at a venue at which the All Blacks are undefeated in 23 years.

But Gatland said his side must take confidence from their victories over the Crusaders and the Maori All Blacks.

"We squeezed the life out of those two teams and we won't stop being aggressive defensively," he said.

"To play against the All Blacks you've got to have a strong set-piece, you need a platform to be able to work off to start with.

"I think we've played some lovely rugby. We struggled at the start of the tour, but we've outscored opponents nine tries to three in the last four games."

The second Test takes place in Wellington on Saturday, 1 July, before the teams return to Eden Park on Saturday, 8 July.

The teams

New Zealand: B Smith; I Dagg, R Crotty, SB Williams, R Ioane; B Barrett, A Smith; J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, B Retallick, S Whitelock, J Kaino, S Cane, K Read (capt).

Replacements: N Harris, W Crockett, C Faumuina, S Barrett, A Savea, TJ Perenara, A Cruden/L Sopoaga, A Lienert-Brown.

British and Irish Lions: L Williams (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te'o (England), E Daly (England); O Farrell (England), C Murray (Ireland); M Vunipola (England), J George (England), T Furlong (Ireland); AW Jones (Wales), G Kruis (England); P O'Mahony (capt, Ireland), S O'Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), M Itoje (England), S Warburton (Wales), R Webb (Wales), J Sexton (Ireland), L Halfpenny (Wales).


Chris Jones, Eyes On Events radio 5 live rugby correspondent

By his own admission, tour captain Sam Warburton hasn't been at his best yet in New Zealand, but not selecting the skipper is still a headline decision from Gatland. It has seldom been done before.

O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau formed a balanced and imposing back-row unit in the wins over the Crusaders and the Maori All Blacks and their selection is a sensible call.

Elsewhere, the coach has rolled the dice. Itoje was a force of nature against the Maori, but he has been consigned to the bench with the experienced Jones given the nod alongside George Kruis in the second row.

Jones' pedigree cannot be questioned. He led the Lions to a series win in Australia in 2013, and is an inspirational figure. But Itoje is the form man, and the Lions coaches would surely have been tempted to unleash the Saracen from the start. He will surely be tasked with making a major impact off the bench.

Gatland is not adverse to throwing selectorial curve balls, but the make-up of his back three is startling. It had been widely expected the Kiwi would opt for his tried-and-tested Welshmen - George North and Leigh Halfpenny - but instead Williams and Daly join Watson.

These inclusions have been made on recent form. Both excelled in the win over the Chiefs in Hamilton in midweek and have made late charges into the Test team. These selections have sent a clear message to the wider squad: perform, and you will be picked.

It means no place in the 23 for North, and while Jones has perhaps been selected on reputation, the opposite is the case here. While this puts paid to the theory that Gatland is risk-averse, it also shows that he is aware that to beat the All Blacks, the Lions must pose an attacking threat to ally with their suffocating defence and dominant set-piece.

Gatland knows playing it safe at Eden Park won't be enough.


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