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Farrell edges Sexton for first Lions Test

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 21/06/2017 Angelo Risso

Owen Farrell will start ahead of Johnny Sexton as the British and Irish Lions' playmaker-in-chief for their first Test against the All Blacks.

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.

He'll line up alongside Irishman Conor Murray in the halves, as the Lions look to secure their first Test match victory in New Zealand since 1993.

Farrell's position at first-five - and not outside Sexton at second-five, as some predicted - suggests that boss Warren Gatland will continue to use the brawny, physical style that secured wins over the Crusaders and Maori.

Ben Te'o and Jonathan Davies start in the midfield.

Despite the selection, Gatland insisted his side couldn't rely on penalty goals alone against the All Blacks for victory.

"We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up, especially from the Crusaders and Maori games," Gatland said.

"We have continuously been strong at (the) set piece and have been good defensively in the last two or three outings but, to beat the All Blacks, you have to be courageous and play some rugby - you have to score tries."

Elsewhere, Irish blindside Peter O'Mahony gets the nod to skipper the Test side, with incumbent Sam Warburton left on the bench.

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 the back three, fullback Liam Williams and winger Elliot Daly retain their roles from Tuesday's win over the Chiefs, despite the short turnaround.

The pair both performed positively and did enough to start over the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, who has been benched, and the omitted George North.

Of the starting XV, seven players have Lions Test experience.

"Elliot's been very accurate in the way he has played and we saw some excellent attacking play from Liam on Tuesday - we're excited about the XV that take the field, but also the very strong and experienced bench," Gatland said.

BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS: Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Ben Te'o, Elliot Daly, Owen Farrell, Conor Murray, Taulupe Faletau, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony (c), George Kruis, Alun Wyn Jones, Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. RESERVES: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Sam Warburton, Rhys Webb, Johnny Sexton, Leigh Halfpenny.

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