New Zealand Barbarians vs British & Irish Lions Preview
Last updated: June 2, 2017 by Leon Marshal
|Kick-off:||Saturday, 08:35 (GMT)|
|Venue:||Toll Stadium, Whangarei|
|Coverage:||Sky Sports, Sky Sports HD|
|Fixture type:||Warm up fixture|
|Home team odds||25/1|
|Away team odds:||1/33|
With Warren Gatland’s side finally together as a full squad and their feet firmly planted on New Zealand soil, the long wait for the 2017 tour is almost over. Whangarei, the most Northern City in New Zealand’s North Island, will become the focal point of tomorrow evening’s entertainment as the touring side look to get off to a winning start against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians. For the home side, comprised partly of semi-professional players from New Zealand’s provincial Mitre 10 Cup competition, this is a game that surpasses anything they’ve experienced so far. Most of the Barbarians won’t be used to the kind of media attention surrounding the fixture, and many will have aspirations of getting noticed and signing Super Rugby contracts. The Lions, on the other hand, are full of seasoned test players that will be expected to deliver the goods and kick the campaign off with a big win.
After landing in New Zealand just two days ago, the Lions had their first proper training session together after being joined by the last remaining players from the Aviva Premiership and Guinness Pro 12 finals last weekend. Now, back to full complement, Gatland’s 41-strong squad side were seen training at the North Harbour Stadium yesterday, with the head coach experimenting with different combinations at half-back and in the front five that are likely to keep changing right up until the squad face the NZ Maori, one week before the first proper test.
Gatland has opted for a strong side for the tour opener; the pack is well-balanced with combativeness, experience and a competitive edge while the backs have pace and flair in abundance. Considering the clear gulf in quality and experience – for many of the Barbarians it will be the biggest game of their careers to date with the majority still yet to be signed to tier-one level clubs – it would take something truly extraordinary for us to see the Lions stumble at the first hurdle. The absence of players such as Connor Murray, Maro Itoje, Sean O’Brien and Jonathan Davies, suggests that Gatland has one eye on the game against the Auckland Blues next week, the first of five against New Zealand’s Super Rugby teams, however, they will still have their work cut out as you can expect the host’s head coach, Clayton McMillan, to infuse the spirit of the Barbarians in his side and encourage them to play width plenty of width and ambition.
Provincial Barbarians coach Clayton McMillan is optimistic that his side have gelled together despite their week-long preparation. “We’ve kept things relatively simple with the emphasis on creating an environment where the players can express themselves and represent their provinces with pride. We recognise it’s going to be a hard game but we have plenty to play for and the boys can’t wait to get out there,” he commented earlier this week.
Bryn Gatlan, the starting fly-half for the Barbarians and son of lions coach Warren Gatland, will prepare to line up against his father this weekend. The 22-year-old outside half helped North Harbour win promotion to New Zealand’s Premiership in 2017 and has made four appearances for the Auckland Blues, scoring 11 points.
Tour captain, Sam Warbuton, will start at openside flanker against the New Zealand Barbarians in what will be his first game since suffering a knee injury earlier this year. He is joined by Ross Moriarty at openside and Taulupe Faletau at number eight to form an all-welsh back-row.
Tighthead prop, Kyle Sinkler, who has yet to start a test for England, has made the starting XV for the first warm up test of the tour. He lines up alongside Joe Marley and Rory Best in the front row.
|NZ Barbarians:||Ross, Anderson, Jager, Goodhue, Mewett, Tucker, Boshier, Dunshea, Stratton, Gatland, Reece, Sweeney, Finau, Vaka, Laulala|
|Subs:||Makalio, Fahamokioa, Renata, Matich, Rowe, Judd, Lowe, Ngaluafe|
|British & Irish Lions:||Marler, Best, Sinkler, Jones, Henderson, Moriarty, Warbuton, Faletau, Laidlaw, Sexton, Seymour, Te’o, Joseph, Watson, Hogg|
|Subs:||George, Vunipola, Furlong, Kruis, Tipuric, Webb, Farrell, Payne|
Conclusion & Betting Tips
As the Lions prepare to embark on what is set to be a gruelling six-week tour, Warren Gatland and his coaching staff will be working tirelessly to try and come up with a coherent game plan and establish the starting test squad. Tomorrow’s fixture will serve as the perfect opener, as although the Barbarians have some players with real potential and a few more with Super Rugby experience, they shouldn’t cause too many problems for Gatland’s men, with a convincing victory for the touring side being the most probable outcome. For top quality odds prices, we recommend heading over to bet365.