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NZ locks brace for Lions odd couple

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/06/2017 Daniel Gilhooly
Maro Itoje of the Lions wins a lineout. © Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images Maro Itoje of the Lions wins a lineout.

The All Blacks locks are expecting plenty from a revamped British and Irish Lions duo at the opposite ends of their career.

Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick dominated the second row battle in New Zealand's 30-15 first Test win at Eden Park.

The response of Lions coach Warren Gatland was to replace George Kruis with Maro Itoje and bring a third Englishman, Courtney Lawes, onto the reserves bench.

Veteran Alun Wyn Jones retains his starting spot despite a quiet Test, attracting criticism in some quarters.

Jordan Taufua of the Crusaders and Alun Wyn Jones of the Lions react following the Lions' 12-3 win in their third match of the tour. © David Rogers/Getty Images Jordan Taufua of the Crusaders and Alun Wyn Jones of the Lions react following the Lions' 12-3 win in their third match of the tour.

Gatland has belief his faithful Welsh servant will respond with the sort of physicality the pack as a whole was missing last week.

"It is a big game for him. He was a bit disappointed with how it went last week," Gatland said.

"He is pretty focused and motivated. Normally in the past when he has been challenged he has really fronted the next game."

A 110-cap veteran for Wales, Jones has played in the last seven successive Lions Tests.

At the other end of the scale, Itjoe is the youngest member of Gatland's tour party at 22.

Arguably the brightest rising star of European forward play, "Super Maro" has been immersed in success from the outset with both England and his all-conquering club Saracens.

His first start against the All Blacks will carry the extra responsibility of calling the lineouts.

"We acknowledge that they're too good operators, they're very talented guys," Itoje said.

"The challenge for us is to surpass them. We haven't come here to play second best."

Whitelock has been impressed by Itoje and the impact he has on his teammates.

His impact at the tackle and breakdown provided evidence of why he is regarded as a leading blindside flanker candidate.

"He's very young. He has the energy and excitement when he's out there playing," Whitelock said.

"Both guys are really physical, they love that physical battle and we know they're going to bring that."

British and Irish Lions' Sam Warburton and New Zealand's Kieran Read lift the Series Trophy after the series is drawn during the third test of the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour at Eden Park, Auckland In pics: Lions tour of New Zealand
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