Focus remains on Lions as Gatland asks his men to "lay down"

"Some of the guys playing next week will have their first hit-out against one of the best club sides in the world", said Warburton in reference to the ensuing Wednesday and Saturday games against the Auckland Blues and unbeaten Crusaders.

"I can see how from the outside it looks bad but I think it's fine really".

Ireland captain Best will start at hooker with Henderson starting at number five.

"We've got footage available to us of all the players picked in the squad, but it's hard to know what we'll come up against".

"It is important the players get that opportunity, because if they go well and the team goes well, they put themselves in the shop window for a Test start".

And in so doing he embodies all that is best about a sport that will shortly reach fever pitch now the British and Irish Lions have arrived in New Zealand.

Laidlaw hailed head coach Gatland's status as a series-winning Lions boss, in the wake of a warning over coaching style from Eddie Jones.

Warren Gatland gathered his players together on Thursday and urged them to deliver a statement of intent in Whangarei, in a game they simply can not lose.

"We know the Lions have a massively experienced and powerful side", McMillan said.

The All Blacks won the most recent meeting with the Lions in 2005 in convincing fashion 3-0, but Fitzpatrick doesn't expect the hosts to have it all their own way this time around.

"And Eddie can say what he likes, because he's not sat in the hot seat is he?" We've got to give our players the confidence to do the same thing.

"The Lions must go for the heart of the All Blacks and target Barrett", he told The Sun.

"This Lions forward pack will have to front up - and not just front up in scrummages and mauls and the lineout, they've got to out-energise them and out-work them".

"He's a very detailed coach". He's made a strong impression on the group already. The following two games are going to be tough tests for us so we need a good performance first up.

Eddie Jones' side were denied the record outright by Ireland on the final day of the championship - Joe Schmidt's team having ended New Zealand's marathon record-breaking run in 2016.

"If we can win some hearts and minds off the field and play some good rugby, then hopefully we're going to end up with a cracking tour".

Victory in the Test series in Australia four years ago was built on the reliable boot of Leigh Halfpenny, and that is a responsibility Farrell is set to take on in New Zealand.

While the importance of a Lions tour for fans of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland can hardly be underestimated, Vickery knows the southern hemisphere nations also relish the occasion.

"I spoke to Bryn last night and he's enjoying the week", said Lions coach Gatland of his 22-year-old son.

"I was really surprised". I think New Zealand has woken up, as I have.

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