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losangelesnewstoday.com December 15, 2017


'Selfish' O'Mahony determined to make his mark in captaincy

16 June 2017, 06:10 | Stacy Ballard

'Selfish' O'Mahony determined to make his mark in captaincy

Maori team ready to defend legacy

Back in 2013, Warren Gatland called the retired Wales winger up and asked him if he fancied joining the Lions squad.

The Lions kick off at 8.34am BST on Saturday, and face The Chiefs on Tuesday before they finally take on the challenge of the All Blacks on June 24.

The importance of New Zealander, Ben Te'o to the British and Irish Lions backline has just increased significantly following the thigh injury to Owen Farrell which has ruled the Englishman out of tomorrow's match against the Maori All Blacks.

"It's close to their test team, I think", Gatland said. Though, that is something which he chose no to do following the tour-ending injury to Stuart Hogg.

"You put away your Super side, and come in as one - the quicker we can do that, then we can use that to our advantage on Saturday".

Left wing Tim Nanai-Williams is one of nine survivors in the match-day squad from the 23 who held the All Blacks to 25-16 in Apia two years ago.

It would be a big night for Jordie and Vaea as they're both likely to play a part on the night.

"I suppose sometimes I sit back and think about my transition into the game, how some people think it has come along quickly, [and] for me it probably doesn't feel that quick but I'm still proud of the steps I've taken", Te'o said.

Maori team ready to defend legacy

Hansen followed that up with what appeared to be a little dig at the number of southern hemisphere born players in the Lions squad. In Read's absence, full-back Ben Smith captains the All Blacks for their one and only warm-up match against the Pacific Islanders, while Sonny Bill Williams makes his first appearance for the All Blacks since the 2015 Rugby World Cup final after proving his fitness in the Blues' victory over the Lions.

This Saturday's starting side includes 11 players who started in the Lions' gutsy 12-3 win over the Canterbury Crusaders, their most impressive display on tour so far.

"The set-piece is always contestable for us. the forwards will definitely have their work cut out, but it's an exciting challenge for them", he said.

The Lions also believe that their back-row stocks run suitably deep to cope if tour captain Sam Warburton were unable to be fully match sharp enough to start the first Test.

"I've never played against the Maori and I've never played in Rotorua, so it's all new to me".

This week's episode of The Hard Yards sees Stephen Ferris, Kev McLaughlin, Kiwi rugby writer Hamish Bidwell, Ladbrokes' Andy Wildig and host Andy McGeady discussing the underwhelming start to the Lions Tour and New Zealand's relationship with prodigal son Warren Gatland.

Cooper said he was pleased with the way the players had connected throughout the week.

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