Improving British and Irish Lions are ready for All Blacks after thrashing Chiefs, says head coach Warren Gatland

Frank Dalleres
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Chiefs v British & Irish Lions
England wing Nowell returned to form with two tries (Source: Getty)

Chiefs 6-34 British and Irish Lions

Jubilant head coach Warren Gatland insists his British and Irish Lions are peaking just in time for the first Test with New Zealand after they continued their momentum by dismantling the Chiefs on Tuesday.

England wing Jack Nowell answered his critics with two tries in a man-of-the-match display as the Lions’ second string built on an encouraging weekend victory over the Maori All Blacks.

Read more: However Lions series finishes, Gatland has made a mistake

Ireland centre Jared Payne’s touchdown, a penalty try and the kicking of Wales fly-half Dan Biggar completed a convincing win that buoyed Gatland as he prepares for Saturday’s meeting with the world champions.

“We’re getting better each week. We always said we would get better the longer the tour went on,” said Gatland.

“There are still things to work on, but this was a really important result for those players who had been in front in the other two midweek games only to let those leads slip.

“We squeezed them and played some good rugby. That try that Jared Payne scored was pretty impressive and Jack Nowell scored a couple of tries as well, so we are starting to finish a little bit.

“That comes from spending time together. We know we have a few things to tidy up, but we took the legs from them and that enabled us to play some good rugby.”

Daly plays his way into Test contention

Gatland indicated his favoured 23 for Saturday’s first Test at Eden Park by resting them for this clash, though the Lions boss hinted that England back Elliot Daly may have played his way into contention.

Daly impressed on the wing and played a part in Nowell’s brilliant second try, after which the Wasps man was promptly withdrawn – a move interpreted as signalling his possible involvement in Auckland.

“I have no doubt there will be some healthy debate. The selection meeting will be tough and that’s the way we want it,” added Gatland, who is due to name his team on Wednesday.

“We spoke about the quality of the squad before we left and some players haven’t disappointed us. On Saturday we are up against the best team in world in their own back yard where they haven’t lost since 1994. It’s going to be a big test for us.”

O'Mahony backed to lead Lions again

Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony is being tipped to captain the Lions in the first Test as he did against the Maori All Blacks, with Sam Warburton short of full fitness.

“He’s ready to do it,” said countryman and club colleague CJ Stander. “He is my captain at Munster and his heart is on his sleeve. I don’t think there are a lot of leaders like him. I think he’s going to make us proud.”

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