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Lions' first opponents hit by withdrawals

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 25/05/2017

The first New Zealand team to face the touring British and Irish Lions have been hit by a spate of withdrawals.

The New Zealand Provincial Barbarians have been denied access to six players for the tour-opener in Whangarei on June 3 because they are needed by their respective Super Rugby teams.

Coach Clayton McMillan's 19-man squad named two weeks ago has been finalised at 23, featuring 10 additions.

Among those withdrawn are three Chiefs players - second five-eighth Johnny Fa'auli, halfback Jonathan Taumateine and flanker Mitchell Brown. Two Crusaders forwards - Quentin Strange and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis - have also pulled out, along with Blues hooker Epalahame Faiva.

McMillan accepted Super Rugby took precedence over his unheralded side, picked from some of the better performers at the third-tier NPC level.

"It's great to see provincial players make the step-up to Super Rugby and put in some impressive performances," McMillan said.

"While we would have loved to have them involved in our campaign we recognise they are needed elsewhere.

"Our coaching group is confident we have selected a strong group of players who will relish this opportunity to take on the British and Irish Lions."

Blues first five-eighth Bryn Gatland, the son of Lions coach Warren Gatland, has retained his place.

Among the additions are 32-year-old outside back Dwayne Sweeney, who recently signed to play this season for Waikato, six years after his previous NPC campaign.

Five forwards with limited Super Rugby experience - Lachlan Boshier, Andrew Makalio, Oliver Jager, James Tucker and Mitch Dunshea - are also introduced, along with All Blacks Sevens representative Sam Vaka.

Veteran flanker Peter Rowe, 35, remains the sole selection from the semi-professional Heartland Championship.

NZ Provincial Barbarians:

Backs: Jack Stratton (Canterbury), Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty), Bryn Gatland (North Harbour), Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), Kaveinga Finau (Canterbury), Jonah Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Sevuloni Reece (Waikato), Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau), Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau), Junior Ngaluafe (Southland).

Forwards: Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty), Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington), Sam Anderson-Heather (Otago), Andrew Makalio (Tasman), Marcel Renata (Auckland), Oliver Jager (Canterbury), Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty), Joshua Goodhue (Northland), James Tucker (Waikato), Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), Matthew Matich (Northland), Peter Rowe (Wanganui).

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