By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs duo Jack Nowell and Tomas Francis have both been named in the British and Irish Lions side to face the Chiefs in Waikato on Tuesday.
England international Nowell will start his third game of the New Zealand tour on the right wing, while Francis – who was one of six players called into the squad by Warren Gatland over the weekend – is included on the bench.
Francis, together with Allan Dell, Kristian Dacey, Cory Hill, Gareth Davies and Finn Russell will all get their first taste of Lions involvement, while Iain Henderson, Greig Laidlaw, Dan Biggar and Elliot Daly start having come off the bench in Saturday’s 21-10 win against the Maori All Blacks.
“We are five games into the tour and there is still a lot to play for,” said Gatland. “We are here to win a Test series and we have brought cover for the replacements’ bench so we can limit the number of players who need to double up, which is tough to do at this level of rugby.
“Those involved on Tuesday will be playing not only for themselves in terms of further selection but also for the whole squad. We know it is going to be another big challenge against the Chiefs, who have won the Super Rugby title twice in the last five years.”
Ireland’s Rory Best will captain the British and Irish Lions against the Chiefs, with Sam Warburton’s omission a boost in the Wales flanker’s bid for first Test selection.
Gatland has vowed to protect the potential squad for Saturday’s first All Blacks Test by keeping the brunt of that 23 out of the firing line against the Chiefs, who themselves will be without all of their All Blacks contingent for the match.
Lions team to face Chiefs: 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).