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The British and Irish Lions face their toughest examination of the 2017 tour of New Zealand so far on Saturday, as they take on the All Blacks in the first of three Test matches.
The Lions are coming off a win over Super Rugby side Chiefs but have already suffered losses against Blues and Highlanders, while the hosts are coming off a huge 78-0 win over Samoa.
The Lions haven’t faced New Zealand since 2005, when the All Blacks easily swept their opponents aside. After some great showings in 2016, the hosts are again the clear favourites entering this series.
With Billy Vunipola and Ben Youngs no longer in the squad, the Lions have taken some hits during the tour. The visitors still boast tremendous talent―replacing scrum-half Youngs with a star such as Greig Laidlaw is a unique luxury―but the same holds true for the All Blacks.
Ardie Savea will move to the bench to make way for the returning Kieran Read, who will captain the side. Rieko Ioane, the 20-year-old who faced the Lions for the Blues, will also start, per the team’s official website.
Gatland, a native Kiwi, has hinted at a more adventurous tactical plan as opposed to the team’s reliance on the breakdown and kicking game, but given the All Blacks’ incredible ability on the counter and strength out wide, that may not be such a great idea.