O'Mahony to captain Lions in 1st test vs

Maro Itoje will have a big impact off the bench

Maro Itoje will have a big impact off the bench

The All Blacks should have the individual skills to challenge the British and Irish Lions in the first Test on Saturday and will not make as many mistakes, Waikato Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said on Tuesday.

Wales global Liam Williams, who will move to Allianz Park following the tour, will start at fullback after an impressive showing on Tuesday against Super Rugby side the Chiefs. While it is a tough decision to list the outstanding Maro Itoje among the replacements, the selection of Alun Wyn Jones to start is not a complete surprise.

Gatland made only four changes to the starting XV that defeated the Maori, choosing England star Owen Farrell at fly-half over Ireland's Johnny Sexton.

Then when tour captain Sam Warburton struggled to regain full fitness after knee surgery, O'Mahony was named to captain the Lions in last weekend's match against the New Zealand Maori - an effective test dress rehearsal.

Elsewhere, O'Mahony will form a loose forward trio with Taulupe Faletau and Sean O'Brien, while Alun Wyn Jones has been preferred to Maro Itoje in the second row.

In arguably a surprise move, Warren Gatland left George North out of his squad completely, having been one of Welsh head coach's chief go-to guys for the global side.

O'Mahony will skipper the team and will be joined in the back row by Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau.

Alun Wyn Jones of the Lions charges upfield
Alun Wyn Jones of the Lions charges upfield

"I think that the off-field stuff that people have been saying has put a bit of a dampener on the Tour but that's professional sport now - you've got to live with that", Gatland said last Saturday. Jamie George - Saracens, England 3.

The 25-year-old Farrell has been kept under wraps with a thigh strain this week, missing the side's 32-10 victory over the Maori All Blacks in Rotorua, but has recovered in time to start at first five-eighth on Saturday at Eden Park.

Gatland said: "It was a lively selection meeting".

The in-form Conor Murray partners Farrell at half-back as the Lions bid to become the first team to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park since 1994.

"I'd also like to congratulate Rieko on getting his first start for the All Blacks".

We know this is a very good British and Irish Lions team; probably one of the best to have toured here. Elliot Daly, 12. Ben Te'o, 13. George Kruis 6. Peter O'Mahony (captain) 7. Jack McGrath - Leinster, Ireland 18.

All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock, meanwhile, summed up an acute sense of anticipation and history as the world champions prepare for Lions battle.

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