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Gatland mixes up Lions squad again

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/06/2017 Angelo Risso

True to his word, British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland will give the final 11 players of his 41-man squad a starting role for Saturday's clash with the Crusaders.

Gatland has played two completely different starting XVs in the Test side's two matches against the provincial Barbarians and Blues, and on Saturday will give the rest of his troops a hit-out.

Englishman Owen Farrell is partnered with Irishman Conor Murray in the halves in Christchurch, while Gatland has once again preferred brawn to brains in the midfield by selecting Jonathan Davies and Ben Te'o.

The back three is made up of Welsh duo George North and Liam Williams on the wings, as well as Scottish attacking weapon Stuart Hogg at fullback.

Up front, stand-in skipper Alun Wyn Jones - who captained the Lions in the third 2013 Test against Australia - will start in the second row alongside George Kruis.

Taulupe Faletau and Irish duo Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony take up roles in the loose forward trio, while destructive Irish tighthead Tadhg Furlong will be joined by Jamie George and Mako Vunipola in the front row.

Of the XV, only Te'o, Hogg, Jones and Faletau have already started a match.

Incumbent skipper Sam Warburton has again been rested.

"The aim was always to start everyone in the first three matches and this selection ensures we achieve this," Gatland said.

"Our squad is working hard, and we are seeing improvement in their performances both at training and in the games."

The Lions have struggled in their first two matches on Kiwi soil, crawling to a 13-7 victory over the provincial Barbarians in Whangarei before falling 22-16 to the Blues at Eden Park on Wednesday night.

Gatland admitted his Test side would need to be more disciplined against the Crusaders, who are undefeated in Super Rugby in 2017.

"Last night's result against the Blues was disappointing, and we know we can't afford to give away so many penalties," Gatland said.

BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS: Stuart Hogg, George North, Jonathan Davies, Ben Te'o, Liam Williams, Owen Farrell, Conor Murray, Taulupe Faletau, Sean O'Brien, Peter O'Mahony, George Kruis, Alun Wyn Jones (c), Tadhg Furlong, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola. RESERVES: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, CJ Stander, Rhys Webb, Johnny Sexton, Anthony Watson.

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