British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland cited the need to score tries after opting for flair in his team selection for Saturday’s first Test against world champions New Zealand in Auckland.
Gatland has revealed his hand and appeared to reward Wasps utility back Elliot Daly and Wales flyer Liam Williams for their showings against the Chiefs on Tuesday with a place in the starting XV.
Daly is to be handed the No11 jersey with Williams at full-back, while Anthony Watson will occupy the other flank. There is no place in the matchday squad for George North, who was tipped to start.
Ireland flanker Peter O’Mahony will skipper the side in place of official tour captain Sam Warburton, who has been named among the replacements, as the Lions bid to become the first team to beat New Zealand at Eden Park since 1994.
“We have picked a side based on form with a lot of players putting their hands up,” said Gatland. “To beat the All Blacks you have to be courageous and play some rugby. You have to score tries and I think we have picked a team capable of doing that.”
There are eight Welshmen in the squad, including former Lions skipper Alun Wyn Jones who gets the nod over Maro Itoje to partner George Kruis in the second row, and Jonathan Davies at outside centre.
Six Nations champions England provide seven players in the XV with fly-half Owen Farrell, fit again after a thigh problem, getting the nod over Jonathan Sexton and selected alongside prop Mako Vunipola, hooker Jamie George and centre Ben Te’o.
In-form scrum-half Conor Murray will partner Farrell at half-back, Tadhg Furlong has been named at tighthead prop, while Sean O’Brien and Taulupe Faletau will team up with O’Mahony in the back-row. There are no Scottish players in the matchday party.
New Zealand No8 Kieran Read, meanwhile, has been named All Blacks skipper for the first Test after recovering from the broken thumb which has sidelined him since April. Rieko Ioane replaces Julian Savea on the left wing, while Ryan Crotty will partner Sonny Bill Williams in the centre.
“This was a really tough team to pick because there were a number of players in great form vying for positions,” said New Zealand boss Steve Hansen. “But in the end the three selectors felt this was the best combination to take on the Lions.”