Itís a tame start for Rory's Lions

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

POYNTZPASS' Rory Best made a winning start to his 2017 British and Irish Lions tour as Warren Gatland's side earned a nervy victory over the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday.

The Ireland captain was named in the starting XV in the 13-7 win - the first of the Lions' 10 fixtures.

It was a game that was supposed to have been the most straightforward as the Barbarians were made up of fringe players from Super Rugby, including Gatland's son Bryn, who plays for New Zealand side North Harbour, at fly-half.

Best will be on the bench for tomorrow's (Wednesday) test against the Blues in Auckland, with Wales hooker Ken Owens starting and captaining the side.

The Blues will have eight All Blacks in their starting XV, including double World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams.

Saturday's game was meant to be a 'soft' opener and Gatland would have been less than impressed with Best and his Ulster teammate Iain Henderson.

Best did make a nuisance of himself with a few breakdown steals and carried the ball a few times but a player of his calibre and experience should have produced so much more.

A crooked throw during a line-out wouldn't have helped his chances of starting one of the test games against the All Blacks but he'll have plenty more game time as Gatland will rotate his squad before Saturday, June 24.

It was a bad day for the Lions' Irish contingent as Ireland fly-half Johnny Sexton struggled against the Barbarians, with Owen Farrell coming off the bench to salvage the victory.

Leading 7-3 at half time thanks to Sam Anderson-Heather's try, the Barbarians had the victory snatched away from them after a late Anthony Watson score for the Lions, which was initiated by Farrell.

Boss Gatland insisted he will stick to his plan of fielding an entirely different starting XV at Eden Park tomorrow.

Asked how many changes he will make, Gatland said: "Fifteen. The plan is everyone gets a start in the first three games, and I've been continually saying that."

Provincial Barbarians: L Laulala, S Vaka, I Finau, D Sweeney, S Reece, B Gatland, J Stratton, A Ross, S Anderson- Heather, O Jager, J Goodhue, K Mewett, J Tucker, L Boshier and M Dunshea.

British and Irish Lions: S Hogg, A Watson, J Joseph, B Te'o, T Seymour; J Sexton, G Laidlaw, J Marler, R Best, K Sinckler, AW Jones, I Henderson, R Moriarty, S Warburton and T Faletau.


Lions tour fixtures -

All with a 8.35am kick-off:

Blues, Auckland - Wednesday, June 7

Crusaders, Christchurch - Saturday, June 10

Highlanders, Dunedin - Tuesday, June 13

Maori All Blacks, Rotorua - Saturday, June 17

Chiefs, Hamilton - Tuesday, June 20

All Blacks, Auckland - Saturday, June 24

Hurricanes, Wellington - Tuesday, June 27

All Blacks, Wellington - Saturday, July 1

All Blacks, Auckland - Saturday, July 8.


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