Peter O’Mahony has impressed Warren Gatland with his play and leadership. Photo: Reuters
Peter O’Mahony has impressed Warren Gatland with his play and leadership. Photo: Reuters
Lions centre Ben Te’o has been a powerful presence in midfield and has been rewarded with a Test start. Photo: Reuters
Lions centre Ben Te’o has been a powerful presence in midfield and has been rewarded with a Test start. Photo: Reuters
Liam Williams, right, will bring an attacking edge from fullback for the Lions. Photo: Reuters
Liam Williams, right, will bring an attacking edge from fullback for the Lions. Photo: Reuters

AUCKLAND – British and Irish Lions tour captain Sam Warburton was left out of the starting team to face the All Blacks in the first Test of the three-match series at Eden Park on Saturday.

Ireland’s Peter O’Mahony will lead the side, with his compatriot Sean O’Brien taking the No 7 jersey. Warburton will come off the bench.

“It’s a reward for how the back row has gone,” Gatland said in a statement on Thursday. “There is a nice balance there, while Peter captained the side against the Maori All Blacks and has done a good job.”

It is the second successive tour that Gatland has shown no sentimentality towards players in order to win the Test series.

He dropped Ireland and Lions stalwart Brian O’Driscoll for the deciding third Test against Australia in 2013, which prompted an outcry among media, fans, pundits and from the player himself. The Lions won the game 41-16.

Wales utility Liam Williams was surprisingly named at fullback after a strong game against the Chiefs on Tuesday.

Leigh Halfpenny, who had been impressive against the Maori All Blacks last Saturday, has dropped to the bench, with Williams offering a more incisive running option and the ability to cover wing.

Gatland has opted for a hard-running midfield combination in Jonathan Davies and Ben Te’o, while England’s Owen Farrell starts at flyhalf after shaking off an injury.

Warren Gatland made some big selection calls for the first Test against the All Blacks. Photo: Reuters


England duo Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson will start on the wings. Welshman George North is not in the squad.

“We have picked a side based on form, with a lot of players putting their hands up, especially from the Crusaders and Maori All Blacks games, and it was a lively selection meeting,” Gatland added.

“The win against the Chiefs was also extremely important for the squad, and some players played themselves into the side.

“Elliot has been very accurate in the way he has played, and we saw some excellent attacking play from Liam.

“We are excited about the 15 that take the field, but also the very strong and experienced bench players who will have an impact.”

Lions Team

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

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

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