The British & Irish Lions team to play the Blues in Auckland on Wednesday (kick-off 7.35pm local time/8.35am Irish time) has been announced with Wales hooker Ken Owens captaining the side.
Ken Owens will be one of 11 players making their British & Irish Lions debut at Eden Park after head coach Warren Gatland made 15 changes to the side that kicked off the 2017 tour with a 13-7 victory over the NZ Provincial Barbarians.
Ireland’s Jared Payne and Robbie Henshaw will pair up in the Lions midfield, while their international colleagues Jack McGrath and CJ Stander are also set for their first appearances in the famous red jersey. Peter O’Mahony is poised for his Lions debut off a bench which includes Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Jonathan Sexton.
Commenting on the team to face the Super Rugby outfit in Auckland, Gatland said: “We have made 15 changes to the starting XV and we are excited to see what this team is able to do against the Blues.
“We’ve stated from the off that we want to give every player a start in the first three games and Wednesday is an opportunity for this set of players to show what they can do in a Lions jersey. It was good to get the win under our belts last weekend. The boys in the stand were itching to get their chance and they’re really excited about Wednesday.
“In terms of Ken, he’s worked really hard on his recovery and it’s great to have him available. He has captained the Scarlets and has assumed a leadership role within the camp and it is a great opportunity for him.
“We are expecting a big crowd at Eden Park. It will be the first of three matches there for us and we know the atmosphere will be outstanding. We’re hoping for some good weather and are expecting a tough, fast and open game of rugby.
“We have a few work-ons from last weekend and we know we need to be more clinical. We created some good opportunities against the Barbarians but didn’t see them through and that is something we want to improve on.”
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS Team & Replacements (v Blues, 2017 British & Irish Lions Tour, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, Wednesday, June 7, kick-off 7.35pm local time/8.35am Irish time):
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon/Wales) #775
14. Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs/England)
13. Jared Payne (Ulster/Ireland)
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Ireland)
11. Elliot Daly (Wasps/England)
10. Dan Biggar (Ospreys/Wales)
9. Rhys Webb (Ospreys/Wales) #820
1. Jack McGrath (Leinster/Ireland)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets/Wales) (capt)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England) #794
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens/England)
5. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints/England)
6. James Haskell (Wasps/England)
7. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/Wales) #786
8. CJ Stander (Munster/Ireland)
16. Rory Best (Ulster/Ireland) #793
17. Joe Marler (Harlequins/England) #811
18. Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins/England) #814
19. Iain Henderson (Ulster/Ireland) #808
20. Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Ireland)
21. Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester/Scotland) #810
22. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland) #791
23. Liam Williams (Scarlets/Wales)
# Denotes Lions number