British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland believes his three selection changes will make the tourists better equipped to hurt New Zealand in Saturday’s pivotal second Test in Wellington.
Gatland has brought in fly-half Johnny Sexton, shifting Owen Farrell to centre at the expense of England colleague Ben Te’o, captain Sam Warburton and powerhouse Maro Itoje as he looks to avoid a repeat of last week’s defeat to the All Blacks and keep the three-match series alive.
Lock Courtney Lawes, wing Jack Nowell and back-row CJ Stander have been rewarded for strong midweek displays against the Hurricanes with places on the bench, but flanker Peter O’Mahony, who skippered the Lions in the first Test, has been left out of the match-day 23.
“We have made a call on the amount of possession and opportunities we’ve created. We think we did stress the All Blacks at times last week,” said Gatland.
“They got pretty narrow, because they played that way in an attacking perspective, so it does open up some opportunities for us if we get the ball back to attack them as well. And that’s why we have gone with the combinations we have.”
Gatland backed Alun Wyn Jones to repay his faith, after retaining the Wales lock instead of George Kruis, who makes way for England and Saracens team-mate Itoje.
He added: “It is a big game for Alun Wyn. He knows. He was a bit disappointed last week in how it went, and he's pretty focused and pretty motivated.
“Normally in the past when he has had those challenges, he has really fronted the next game. He has trained well this week and I think he’s looking forward to Saturday night.”
Lions team to play All Blacks in the second Test
L Williams, A Watson, J Davies, O Farrell, E Daly, J Sexton, C Murray, M Vunipola, J George, T Furlong, M Itoje, AW Jones, S Warburton (capt), S O’Brien, T Faletau
Replacements: K Owens, J McGrath, K Sinckler, C Lawes, CJ Stander, R Webb, B Te’o, J Nowell