You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Test spot still possible for back-up Lions

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/06/2017 Angelo Risso

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland has insisted his players for Tuesday's clash with the Chiefs can still aspire to "double up" and play Test rugby next weekend - despite all evidence to the contrary.

Gatland has made a full 15 changes to the side that squashed the Maori All Blacks 32-10 in Rotorua on Saturday, as he completes the process of splitting his squad into two separate groups of Test and non-Test personnel.

With six players added to the touring party over weekend, from Wales and Scotland, and two lost to injury, Gatland now has 45 men to call on - almost two squads.

It is all but confirmed that the matchday squad for Saturday's first Test against the All Blacks will be made up of the 22 men not selected for Tuesday's game in Hamilton and, most likely, Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones.

Nevertheless, Gatland said strong performances on Tuesday would be rewarded, whether in Saturday's Test in Auckland or down the track.

"There's opportunities for players to go out and perform and you never know; we won't sit down as a coaching team to pick the (Test) team until Wednesday and that's only fair to the players who are taking the field on Tuesday," Gatland said.

"Someone has a great performance and there's always an opportunity.

"We're still not confirmed in a number of the combinations and finalising what we want at second row, back row, the back three combination, midfield."

Skippered by Irish rake Rory Best, the mid-week side has a number of surprising faces, including Dan Cole, Greig Laidlaw and Elliot Daly.

Courtney Lawes has recovered from a head knock against the Highlanders to start alongside Iain Henderson in the second row, while CJ Stander, Justin Tipuric and James Haskell make up the Lions' loose forward trio.

Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne slot into the midfield, suggesting two of Ben Te'o, Jonathan Joseph and Jonathan Davies will start on Saturday.

Gatland encouraged his troops to keep their heads up and strive for Test roles, citing his experience in Australia in 2013 as a case in point.

The Lions arrived in Hamilton, Gatland's home town, on Sunday morning before taking part in a light training session, with the 'mid-week players' separated from the Test group.

"You look at that 2013 tour, we made nine changes between the three Tests," Gatland said.

"Players have got to stay on form, be positive, confident.

"We're going to need some players that may double up."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon