Warren Gatland has named his Lions team to take on the Blues on Wednesday, as the touring party are eager to build momentum following a disappointing performance against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.
Here are five talking points from the team announcement.
Ken Owens named captain
The Welshman has been named captain of the side, as Sam Warburton will not feature. The hooker is battling with Rory Best and Jamie George for the starting berth, but it is clearly a string to Owens’ bow that Gatland sees him as a leader.
CJ Stander – starting 8?
Billy Vunipola’s injury threw the cat amongst the pigeons in the back row. It is now clear that Gatland sees CJ Stander as the likely man to fill the number 8 jersey.
James Haskell and Justin Tipuric are the flankers, while Peter O’Mahony is on the bench.
Stander may get used to playing in his preferred position for Munster, rather than at 6 where he has featured for Ireland.
No rest for the wicked
With the Premiership and PRO12 finals, as well as the Top 14 semi-finals, taking place last weekend, those involved weren’t going to get the nod for the opening tour game on Saturday. However, Gatland has deemed that they have had a sufficient rest period now.
Ken Owens, James Haskell, CJ Stander, Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell and Leigh Halfpenny were all involved that weekend, but have now been thrown into the Lions starting team.
Gatland keeping things fresh
It is clear that Warren Gatland is eager to give everyone an opportunity to impress. He has named an entirely different XV to the one that took to the field on Saturday.
With nine games to go in a gruelling tour schedule, he is keen to avoid injury or fatigue, but he is also keeping his cards close to his chest as far as a starting test XV is concerned.
Jared Payne there for versatility
When Jared Payne was included in the squad, it was generally accepted that he would be a midweek player.
The Ulster star features at centre for Ireland, but is more often a fullback at his province.
If Gatland quietly fancied Payne to be in contention to be a test starter, perhaps he would get a crack at the 15 jersey.
However, should Halfpenny be replaced throughout the game, Payne may be moved around.
Nonetheless, it appears that the best Payne may hope for is a spot on the bench against New Zealand.
You can see the team named for the Blues clash here.
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