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'Time for the midweek team to deliver' – Chiefs v Lions preview

Warren Gatland
Chiefs v British and Irish Lions
Venue: FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton Date: Tuesday, 20 June Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

On the surface, this is the game no-one wants to play in.

The bulk of those involved against the Chiefs will not feature in the first Test against New Zealand on Saturday.

However, Lions head coach Warren Gatland insists there is still an opportunity for individuals to force their way into the reckoning.

And although the focus is on the All Blacks this weekend, a win in Hamilton would give the squad a significant lift before the main event.

Team news

As expected, all six of the controversial call-ups are among the replacements as Gatland looks to protect as many of the Test 23 as possible.

Elliot Daly and Liam Williams both start in the backline as they bid to sneak into the Test plans, with Daly well placed.

Tour captain Sam Warburton isn’t involved – which points to him facing the All Blacks – while Jonathan Joseph is another name conspicuous by its absence.

The Chiefs will be led by former Bath fly-half Stephen Donald – a World Cup winner with New Zealand in 2011. The news of Donald’s recent engagement was broken by Lions boss Gatland in his pre-match news conference.

Chiefs flanker Liam Messam gave his reaction to his team-mate’s news: “It’s about time he grew up.”

Analysis

Unlike the Saturday side, the Lions midweek team has flattered to deceive so far, beaten by the Blues and the Highlanders, and plenty of players on show in Hamilton will be desperate to do themselves justice for the first time on tour.

With the Test series looming, both Gatland and the players insist the group is not about to split in half and a victory on Tuesday would go a long way to ensuring this remains the case.

The Chiefs won the Super Rugby title in 2012 and 2013 – and are coached by the highly rated Glasgow-bound Dave Rennie – but are heavily denuded by All Blacks and Maori selection.

It’s time for the Lions midweek team to deliver.

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What they say:

Lions head coach Warren Gatland: “Those involved on Tuesday will be playing not only for themselves in terms of further selection but also for the whole squad.”

“We’re reasonably aligned.” Chiefs boss Dave Rennie has beendiscussing team selection with a 10-year-old supporter, Sam.

“It’s about time he grew up,” said Chiefs flanker Liam Messam reacting to team-mate Stephen Donald’s engagement.

What do the locals say?

“Rather than disparage, let’s embrace this battle of wills and contrast in styles. Roll on Eden Park.” Kiwi broadcaster Tony Johnson on Sky’s Rugby Nation relishing the upcoming Test series.

Social media:

“I suppose I’ve created an atmosphere where I’m a friend first and a boss second. Probably an entertainer third.” Lions flanker @jameshask channels his inner David Brent.

Teams:

Lions: L Williams (Wales); J Nowell (England), J Payne (Ireland), R Henshaw (Ireland), E Daly (England); D Biggar (Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland); J Marler (England), R Best (Ireland), D Cole (England), I Henderson (Ireland), C Lawes (England), J Haskell (England), J Tipuric (Wales), C Stander (Ireland).

Replacements:

K Dacey (Wales), A Dell (Scotland), T Francis (Wales), C Hill (Wales), AW Jones (Wales), G Davies (Wales), F Russell (Scotland), T Seymour (Scotland).

Chiefs: S Stevenson; T Pulu, T Nanai-Williams, J Fa’auli, S Alaimalo; S Donald (capt), F Christie, S Fisiihoi, L Polwart, N Laulala, D Bird, M Allardice, M Brown, L Boshier, T Sanders.

Replacements: H Elliot, A Ross, A Moli, L Messam, M Karpik, J Taumateine, L Laulala, C Tiatia.

Lions tour
3 June Provincial Barbarians Won 13-7
7 June Blues Lost 22-16
10 June Crusaders Won 12-3
13 June Highlanders Lost 23-22
17 June Maori All Blacks Won 32-10
20 June Chiefs
24 June New Zealand
27 June Hurricanes
1 July New Zealand
8 July New Zealand

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