June 18, 2017 / 5:16 AM / 7 months ago

Farrell likely to be fit for test, Best to lead Lions against Chiefs

AUCKLAND (Reuters) - British and Irish Lions flyhalf Owen Farrell is expected to be fit for the first test against the All Blacks next Saturday as coach Warren Gatland indicated his preferred lineup for the clash after naming his team for Tuesday’s match against the Waikato Chiefs in Hamilton.

Farrell, a strong contender at flyhalf or inside centre for the June 24 first test, suffered a quadriceps injury last week and had been in doubt for the game at Eden Park.

Gatland, however, said the England player would be available for selection.

“I was always confident about Owen being fit for the weekend,” Gatland told reporters after he named his side for the Chiefs game. “I was never unconfident about that.”

Gatland made wholesale changes to his team for the match against the Chiefs, with none of the starting side who romped to a 32-10 win over the Maori All Blacks on Saturday picked, with Ireland hooker Rory Best named to lead the all-change team.

Gatland has already called in six additional players, four from Wales and two from Scotland, to bolster his squad, effectively allowing him to run two sides for the remainder of the tour.

All six of the additional players were named on the bench for the Chiefs game.

Gatland added that despite the performance of the side who thumped the Maori in Rotorua there were still some areas open for selection, including the composition of his back three with Wales utility Liam Williams named at fullback for the Chiefs game.

Leigh Halfpenny, who is likely to start the test at fullback, was under a minor injury cloud after he took a heavy high tackle from Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the Maori game.

”A number of those players in the back three are pretty versatile,“ Gatland said. ”It’s an opportunity for Liam to go and impress there.

“Anthony Watson did a good job coming on there against the Crusaders and has looked dangerous. We’re giving players a chance there from a counter attack perspective.”

Tour captain Sam Warburton’s position also looks to be under scrutiny for the test after an ankle injury stymied his return to the field on tour, while Ireland’s Sean O‘Brien has been impressive in the big matches.

“There’s no doubt there’s some pressure on him because certain players and certain combinations have gone well,” Gatland said.

“There will be some discussions and debates to be had about the final make-up of the back-row for Saturday.”

Lions: 15-Liam Williams, 14-Jack Nowell, 13-Jared Payne, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-Elliot Daly, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Greig Laidlaw, 8-CJ Stander, 7-Justin Tipuric, 6-James Haskell, 5-Courtney Lawes, 4-Iain Henderson, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Rory Best (captain), 1-Joe Marler.

Replacements: 16-Kristian Dacey, 17-Alan Dell, 18-Tomas Francis, 19-Cory Hill, 20-Alun Wyn Jones, 21-Gareth Davies, 22-Finn Russell, 23-Tommy Seymour.

Editing by Peter Rutherford/Amlan Chakraborty

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