Lions test places still up for grabs against Chiefs


The war of words ahead of the first test between the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions is building with Lions coach Warren Gatland challenging referees to stop New Zealand's off-the-ball "blocking".

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen said Warren Gatland was "running out of time" to produce a Lions team with a style capable of troubling the world champion a week before the three-Test series gets under way.

The Test series is going to be the struggle everyone expected it to be.

Gatland's Lions mentor Sir Ian McGeechan admitted the 2017 head coach's call-ups plan was "difficult to justify", though, as a host of former coaches and players stepped forward to criticise his decision.

"It's about looking after everyone to make sure we get the best performance in the Test matches when they come around".

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"It's part of the game in New Zealand, all New Zealand teams at the moment are doing it", said Gatland. "The ones who deserve to be there, who would give their right arms to be there, rather than some players purely because they happen to be in the right geographical location".

The Chiefs might be missing a number of players on worldwide duty but it would be foolish to write off the Super Rugby side.

There's been no let-up, but the Irish and two-time Lions defence coach has embraced the hard and daunting schedule, and says the same is true for the rest of the coaching and management staff.

After biting his tongue for a week, Gatland fired back after the Lions overcame early tour difficulties to look sharp and well-drilled as they comprehensively outplayed the Maori All Blacks 32-10 in Rotorua yesterday. They were aware of it last night because they spoke about it a lot and they picked it up on a couple of occasions where we ended up with penalties and then a couple of other occasions they spoke about watching certain situations in terms of off the ball stuff. These look very close but if the Lions have any chance of winning it's probably the first test so maybe a tiny bet at 5/1 might be some value.

"But I'm really happy with the group of men we've assembled".

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"There's no doubt that there's some pressure on certain players and certain combinations have gone well", he told reporters.

Liam Williams will play fullback against the Chiefs with the chance to fill the utility on the bench in the Test.

"We've raised it with the referee already".

"The will be some discussions and debates to be had about the final make-up of the back-row for Saturday".

In fact, I can't think of a move we've produced from a scrum or line-out to ask questions.

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15-Shaun Stevenson, 14-Toni Pulu, 13-Tim Nanai-Williams, 12-Johnny Faauli, 11-Solomon Alaimalo, 10-Stephen Donald (captain), 9-Finlay Christie, 8-Tom Sanders, 7-Lachlan Boshier, 6-Mitchell Brown, 5-Michael Allardice, 4-Dominic Bird, 3-Nepo Laulala, 2-Liam Polwart, 1-Siegfried Fisi'ihoi.