Four years on from their memorable series triumph in Australia, the British and Irish Lions return to Test action this weekend in the first of three highly-anticipated matches against the mighty New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland.

Where to watch

The first Test gets underway at 19.35 NZST (08.35 BST) on Saturday (24 June). Live coverage is available on Sky Sports 1 HD, beginning 65 minutes before kick-off.

Radio commentary comes via talkSPORT and talKSPORT 2, while the BBC will also be providing updates via their website and app.


After months of build-up, fervent debate, talking points and the usual sprinkling of media sniping, it's finally here.

A mixed opening to a tour has thus far yielded victories over the Provincial Barbarians, Crusaders, Maori All Blacks and Chiefs and disappointing defeats to the Blues and Highlanders. Now the talking stops as the Lions, seeking to claim only their second series win in 13 attempts in New Zealand and a first since 1971, finally go head-to-head with the reigning world and south hemisphere champions the All Blacks.

Recognising the fact that a strong set-piece and smothering defensive unit heralded for its linespeed will not be enough to stand even a puncher's chance of ending the hosts' formidable 23-year unbeaten streak at Eden Park, head coach Warren Gatland, repeatedly hammered by a predictably partisan Kiwi media for a lack of attacking nous, has been surprisingly bold in terms of his team selection.

Peter O'Mahony
Peter O'Mahony will captain the Lions for the second time at Eden Park, capping a meteoric rise

Liam Williams and Elliot Daly both defied the general consensus that starting in the penultimate midweek tour match likely meant they would not be involved in the first Test, playing themselves into the weekend starting XV in place of experienced duo Leigh Halfpenny and George North - the latter of whom does not even make the bench.

Ireland and Munster flanker Peter O'Mahony retains the captaincy with tour skipper Sam Warburton only listed as a replacement, while Owen Farrell returns from a quadriceps strain to start at fly-half ahead of Johnny Sexton. The rest of the side is generally as expected, with Alun Wyn Jones, who led the Lions during their series-clinching win in Sydney in 2013, partnering George Kruis in the second row instead of Maro Itoje.

As for New Zealand, who warmed up for this opening clash by running in 12 tries during a typically dominant 78-0 shellacking of Samoa last week, Steve Hansen has raised one or two eyebrows by omitting try-scoring machine Julian Savea and handing a maiden Test start to a player who has already lined up twice against the Lions in recent weeks - Rieko Ioane.

Captain Kieran Read (broken thumb) and Ryan Crotty (rib) both return, with the latter taking Anton Lienert-Brown's place as the midfield partner for Sonny Bill Williams. That powerful battle between the master offloader and former NRL rival Ben Te'o will certainly be one to watch.

Kieran Read
Kieran Read served as water boy against Samoa last week, but is fit to start

The build-up to this fixture has been typically acrimonious, with Hansen essentially accusing his counterpart of trying to bully South African referee Jaco Peyper with complaints regarding illegal off-the-ball blocking. Gatland, meanwhile, has questioned if the All Blacks will be as prepared as his team and also queried the absence of Savea and the declining strength of the New Zealand bench.

Meanwhile, Lions brass insist that the "isolated" abuse of tour manager John Spencer in an Auckland restaurant will not impact upon their preparations.


New Zealand: 15. Ben Smith, 14. Israel Dagg, 13. Ryan Crotty, 12. Sonny Bill Williams, 11. Rieko Ioane, 10. Beauden Barrett, 9. Aaron Smith; 1. Joe Moody, 2. Codie Taylor, 3. Owen Franks, 4. Brodie Retallick, 5. Samuel Whitelock, 6. Jerome Kaino, 7. Sam Cane, 8. Kieran Read (c)

Replacements: 16. Nathan Harris, 17. Wyatt Crockett, 18. Charlie Faumuina, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Ardie Savea, 21. TJ Perenara, 22. Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23. Anton Lienert-Brown

Elliot Daly
Elliot Daly starts in a new-look Lions back three

Lions: 15. Liam Williams, 14. Anthony Watson 13. Jonathan Davies, 12. Ben Te'o, 11. Elliot Daly, 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Conor Murray; 1. Maka Vunipola, 2. Jamie George, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Alun Wyn Jones, 5. George Kruis, 6. Peter O'Mahony (c), 7. Sean O'Brien, 8. Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16. Ken Owens, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Kyle Sinckler, 19. Maro Itoje, 20. Sam Warburton, 21. Rhys Webb, 22. Jonathan Sexton, 23. Leigh Halfpenny

What the coaches say

Steve Hansen: "You can feel the enthusiasm and the hunger in the hotel with the players. They're really up for it, and that doesn't guarantee you to win the thing but it does guarantee that your attitude's right and we know if our attitude's right and we get our clarity right then we're a good side and it means the opposition have to be too.

"They've selected a side that's capable of playing a different type of game than we play and that in itself is intriguing and it is going to be interesting to see the result once it has all be played out."

Steve Hansen
Steve Hansen is unhappy with Warren Gatland applying pre-match pressure on the referee

Warren Gatland: "The message to the players before we came out to New Zealand was that to play the All Blacks you have to be bold and take risks. Yes, we are playing to a structure as every team does, but we have been giving the confidence to the players to bring in an offloading game when it's appropriate.

"We have seen some development and improvement on that and there were a couple of nice examples on Tuesday night of that coming together. We know we have got to be courageous coming here, we've got to be bold and play some positive rugby. We feel our set-piece is getting better from game to game and we've improved defensively.

"We just need to bring that other element into the game, which is playing with some flair, taking some risks and being courageous and bold. We've got to be alive for 80 minutes."