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Ioane fulfills dream with test start against Lions

23 June 2017

Four years after omitting the iconic former Ireland centre from his line-up for the last Test against Australia in Sydney, head coach Warren Gatland turned to "BOD" as a shrewd means of galvanising his 2017 squad, on the eve of their showdown with the world champions.

Read fronted a heavily populated press conference at the end of the Captain's Run at Eden Park on Friday, a little over 24 hours out from the opening test between his All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions.

"I'm not anxious about Steve (Hansen), he can say whatever he likes".

As documented in the pictures above, taken on Lions tours of New Zealand in 1971, 1977, 1983, 1993 and 2005, the task of trying the beat the All Blacks can at times feel impossible.

The British and Irish Lions need to win this one to have a realistic chance of winning the series. Maybe both. We didn't see it and so we didn't sanction it.

The All Blacks decision to drop try scoring wing Julian Savea has also been questioned by Gatland.

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The Lions say they will not make a complaint or ask for action to be taken.

"It's fingers crossed and you live in hope for these things but you never know until the team is announced." he added "there was a lot of "yahooing" and dancing around but I didn't get emotional" when the announcement came. We'll be expecting that. "We know we have to be courageous coming here, we know we have to be bold and we know we have to play some positive rugby".

Gatland believes his top team's set piece and defence have improved throughout this tour.

"It's not something I ever even dreamed of as a kid", Jamie George told The Telegraph after he was named to the team, "because it was so far out of the realms of my ambitions". Brother Akira plays alongside Rieko at the Auckland Blues and for the New Zealand Maori. He dreamed from an early age of playing for the All Blacks.

"He doesn't seem more stressed, he has taken it in his stride, it has always been a dream of his to captain the Lions and you know the lads really respect him". They want to offload too.

"They see something in this Lions team that they haven't seen before".

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However, Williams is more of a threat with ball in hand and showed that when lining up at 15 in the convincing 34-6 win against the Chiefs last Tuesday.

"You've got to be confident and willing to play rugby against the All Blacks. you've got to keep attacking, keep playing the game and not go into your shell".

That message has been repeated all week by Gatland and his players, and it's likely that captain Peter O'Mahony will be driving it home tomorrow before kick-off.

"But it's going to be a different animal at the weekend, there are going to be 20,000 odd Lions fans there".

Gatland said his replacements, which include the likes of Warburton, Itoje and Sexton, would be vital as he seeks an 80-minute performance against strong-finishing New Zealand. We've got to stay alive.

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