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8 Irishmen Make Lions Matchday Squad For Clash With Sonny Bill's Blues

8 Irishmen Make Lions Matchday Squad For Clash With Sonny Bill's Blues
By David Kent
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As promised, Warren Gatland has rung the changes for the Lions squad ahead of their second game on Wednesday morning.

After a nervy opening match against the Provincial Barbarians on Sunday, the Lions will be hoping for a better performance against the Blues. The tourists stuttered and stumbled to a six point win, with the media in both hemispheres criticising them.

Now to see what the other half of the squad can do, Gatland has made 15 changes to the starting lineup, including four Irish starters who will make their tour nod.

Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne both start in midfield, with CJ Stander & Jack McGrath featuring in the pack.

Interestingly, Stander has been selected at Number 8, a position where there may be some opportunities given the injury to Billy Vunipola. However, Toby Faletau's fine performance on Saturday means Stander needs a big game.

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On the bench, Saturday starters Rory Best, Jonathan Sexton, Iain Henderson will feature again while Peter O’Mahony will tog out for the first time.

Interestingly, and perhaps worringly, there is still no place for Conor Murray and Sean O'Brien. Gatland said this morning that O'Brien, who missed Leinster's Pro 12 semi final defeat with a calf injury, had only resumed full training for the first time today. Murray is not thought to be an injury concern.

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Welsh hooker Ken Owens captains the side.

The Blues sit in the middle of the Super Rugby standings, but their team features eight All Blacks in the starting XV. Amongst them is Sonny Bill Williams – a two time World Cup winner.

Their manager Tana Umaga is very familiar to Lions fans – particularly the Irish contingent. Twelve years ago, it was he and Kevin Mealamu that spear tackled Brian O’Driscoll, ending his tour. Umaga reflected on the moment speaking to the BBC:

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It's not about that time now, that was 12 years ago. If people can't put that behind them then I suppose they never will. It's about this group now, and their time against the Lions, and the memories they make. Hopefully they are positive ones

Gatland’s charges will face three more Super Rugby teams, as well as a New Zealand Maori selection ahead of the first test on the 24th of June.

Lions team vs Blues:

15. Halfpenny

14. Nowell

13. Payne

12. Henshaw

11. Daly

10. Biggar

9. Webb

1. McGrath

2. Owens (captain)

3. Cole

4. Itoje

5. Lawes

6. Haskell

7. Tipuric

8. Stander

SEE ALSO: Watch: Ireland U20 Dealt Hammer Blow As Scotland Turn On The Style In Georgia

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