Peter O’Mahony named captain for Maori All Blacks clash
Johnny Sexton is re-united with Irish teammate Conor Murray at halfback for Lions
Peter O’Mahony of the Lions celebrating the win over the Crusaders. Photograph: Reuters
Peter O’Mahony will captain the British & Irish Lions against the Maori All Blacks at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday. The Munster captain will follow tour skipper follows Sam Warburton, Ken Owens and Alun Wyn Jones in leading the tourists one week out from the first test.
The selection retains the core of the side that accounted for the previously unbeaten Crusaders last Saturday, as will be the case again when facing New Zealand next Saturday.
All told, 11 of the side which started against the Crusaders will do so against the Maoris, including all bar one of the pack, as Maro Itoje partners George Kruis in the absence of the rested aforementioned Wyn Jones.
Similarly, having backed up last Tuesday in playing twice within four days, CJ Stander isrested completely, as Johnny Sexton is re-united with Conor Murray at halfback, while in the absence of the departing Stuart Hogg, Leigh Halpfenny is restore at full-back and Anthony Watson starts on the wing.
Owen Farrell had been named on the bench, however he has been ruled out through injury and has been replaced by Dan Biggar.
This means that O’Mahony and Sean O’Brien flank Toby Faletau in the back-row, with Warburton on the bench, while Tadhg Furlong starts at tight-head. Jack McGrath and Iain Henderson are on the bench.
“We were obviously disappointed with the loss against the Highlanders and realise that we need to improve in several areas, including our discipline, but we feel that overall we are building well towards the Test matches,” said Warren Gatland.
“Every game is a big challenge, which is what we wanted, and this is an experienced Lions team with eight of the starting 15 involved in the last Test in Australia in 2013.”
Gatland added: “Peter is a proven captain with Munster. He never takes a backward step and we believe that those leadership qualities will serve us well on Saturday against a quality and determined Maori All Blacks team.”
LIONS: Leigh Halfpenny; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Ben Te’o, George North; Johnny Sexton, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong; Maro Itoje, George Kruis; Peter O’Mahony (capt), Sean O’Brien, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Iain Henderson, Sam Warburton, Greig Laidlaw, Dan Biggar, Elliot Daly