By Jordan Trott
- Deciding test, with the series tied up 1-1.
- Liam Williams overcomes injury to be included in Lions XV.
- Kieran Read makes 100th All Black appearance.
- Jordie Barrett, 20, makes first start for New Zealand.
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – The Lions are looking for their first series win against New Zealand in 46 years.
Warren Gatland names an unchanged side, as the British and Irish Lions head into the final and deciding Test in New Zealand. The Lions will face off against All Blacks at Eden Park, with the series deadlocked at 1-1. The Lions head into the game looking for their first series win in New Zealand since 1971.
The game also marks the end of the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour, as they play their tenth and final game.
British & Irish Lions Team news
Liam Williams passed a late fitness test and Mako Vunipola retained his starting berth, despite calls for the prop to be dropped. With Williams and Vunipola in the fold, the Lions will field the same starting XV in consecutive Tests for the first time since 1993.
The front row will pack down for the third successive test. 26-year-old loosehead prop, Vunipola, makes the cut – despite his lack of discipline and yellow card last Saturday. England’s Jamie George and Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong also start.
Hooker, George, has had a surprising role for Gatland’s men – as the 26 year-old had never started a test match prior to this tour. Tighthead, Furlong, has also done well to fight off Kyle Sinckler – who will start from the bench once again.
Alun Wyn Jones continues alongside cult-hero Maro Itoje continues at lock. Back-rowers Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau will start in all three tests and have both been on the end of two superb tries. O’Brien finished off a wonder try in the first test and Faletau scored with a wingers finish in the second test. Captain Sam Warburton will start for the second week running and it it will be his fourth test captaining the Lions.
Conor Murray will be hoping to pick up where he left off last week, after being the hero of the first test. The scrum-half scored a crucial try in the win and will start with the number 9 jersey once again. The combination of Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell remains at 10 and 12 respectively – with Farrell resuming the kicking duties, after knocking over the winning kick last week.
Jonathan Davies, who has returned to his best form during the tour, retains his spot at outside centre for the third test in a row. Davies has been the Lion’s best back during the series – and arguably the best player.
The back three is a unit that came into the tour with the most uncertainty – yet has been a unit that have started all three games together. Williams is joined by Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson for the third time.
Williams’ inclusion sees Leigh Halfpenny miss out and Jack Nowell retains his spot on the bench. That means Halfpenny, who won Player of the Series in the 2013 tour of Australia, fails to start a test, this time around.
As for the All Blacks, Sonny Bill Williams misses out due to suspension. The 31 year-old has been banned for four weeks; after his red card for a shoulder charge on Watson, in last weeks’ 24-21 defeat to the Lions. Ngani Laumape comes in for the two-time world cup winner, after maing his debut last week. Centre Malakai Fekitoa comes into the side, on the bench, to fill the void left by Laumape.
The New Zealand forwards have been in fine form this series, showing they should not be underestimated. The forwards remain unchanged for the third consecutive test. Skipper Kieran Read will win his 100th cap for the All Blacks at Number Eight. Read is joined in the back row by two-time world cup winner Jerome Kaino and the ever impressive Sam Cane.
The half-back duo of Aaron Smith and Beauden Barrett continue for Steve Hansen’s men. Despite being, arguably, the best 9/10 combination in the world – they disappointed last week in difficult conditions
Jordie Barrett will make his first start for the All Blacks, replacing livewire Reiko Ioane. Barrett, the young brother of fly-half Beauden, will slot it at full-back – with Israel Dagg slotting to the wing. Ioane was the star of the first test, after scoring two tries, misses out with illness. 6’4 Jordie and Beauden will be joined by the third Barrett brother, Scott, who is named on the bench once again.
There is also a return for prolific winger Julian Savea. Savea had missed the previous two tests in favour of Ioane – but the 26 year-old returns for the All Blacks. Savea has an incredible record of 46 tries in 53 tests for the All Blacks.
Lions XV: Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Sean O’Brien, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, CJ Stander, Rhys Webb, Ben Te’o, Jack Nowell.
All Blacks XV: Jordie Barrett, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.
Replacements: Nathan Harris, Wyatt Crockett, Charlie Faumuina, Scott Barrett, Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara, Aaron Cruden, Malakai Fekitoa
The All Blacks take on the British & Irish Lions at on Saturday 8 July at 8:35am BST
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