|Crusaders v British and Irish Lions|
|Date: 10 June Time: 08:35 BST Venue: AMI Stadium|
|Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and mobile app.|
The tour to New Zealand is a little over a week old, and already the daunting task facing the Lions has been laid bare.
Following the defeat by the Blues, next up are the unbeaten Crusaders, the form team in Super Rugby.
But while Lions boss Warren Gatland feels the franchise sides may be as strong as New Zealand, All Blacks counterpart Steve Hansen says there is “no comparison”.
Hansen’s message to the Lions is simple: things will not get any easier.
- Lions must ‘kick on’, warns North
- ‘Farrell focused on winning not making friends’
- ‘Defeat can be pivotal moment on tour’
- ‘Gatland got his Lions selections right’
Gatland has picked perhaps his strongest side yet as the Lions seek a morale-boosting win to get the tour up and running.
Although the Kiwi insists he has yet to come close to finalising a Test team, it would be no surprise if the combinations at front row, lock, half-back and centre all start against the All Blacks on 24 June.
After playing second fiddle to Johnny Sexton four years ago, fly-half Owen Farrell has the chance to cement his place come the first Test, and he will be tasked with getting the Lions backline moving for the first time on the trip.
Alun Wyn Jones reprises the captaincy role he held in the decisive Test in 2013, with George Kruis alongside him to run the line-out.
Just like the Blues, there is All Blacks experience throughout the Crusaders, from an all-international front row, to the classy Israel Dagg at full-back.
Analysis – ‘There were genuine signs of improvement and cohesion’
Despite the defeat by the Blues on Wednesday, there were genuine signs of improvement and cohesion from the Lions, especially in the set piece and defence.
But to beat New Zealand teams they have to score points, and a total of 29 in 160 minutes so far on tour is insufficient.
The selection of Farrell, and the cut and thrust of the likes of Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and George North, should all help the attacking game, but if the Lions struggle to create or finish opportunities they will be beaten by a Crusaders side yet to lose in 2017.
A second loss in a week would crank the pressure up on the tourists; conversely a win would be a significant statement with the Test series a fortnight away.
‘We’ll be preparing ourselves to have an aerial battle’
Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “The aim was always to start everyone in the first three matches and this selection ensures that we achieve this.”
Crusaders fullback Israel Dagg: “Northern hemisphere teams, they love a kick, so we will be preparing ourselves to have an aerial battle.”
2 – Tries on tour so far for the Lions
6 – Number of All Blacks in the Crusaders forward pack
What do the locals say?
“A lot of Carter in Mo’unga” – Rugby Heaven
Lions: S Hogg; G North, J Davies; B Te’o, L Williams; O Farrell; C Murray; M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong; AW Jones (capt), G Kruis; P O’Mahony, S O’Brien, T Faletau
Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, D Cole, M Itoje, CJ Stander, R Webb, J Sexton, A Watson
Crusaders: I Dagg, S Tamanivalu, J Goodhue, D Havili, G Bridge, R Mo’unga, B Hall, J Moody, C Taylor, O Franks, L Romano, S Whitelock (capt), H Bedwell-Curtis, M Todd, J Taufua.
Replacements: B Funnell, W Crockett, M Alaalatoa, Q Strange, J Brown, M Drummond, M Hunt, T Bateman.
|3 June||Provincial Barbarians||Won 13-7|
|7 June||Blues||Lost 22-16|
|17 June||Maori All Blacks|
|24 June||New Zealand|
|1 July||New Zealand|
|8 July||New Zealand|