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Payne returns to start as Lions squad to face Blues is announced

06 June, 2017, 05:39 | Author: Lula Armstrong

Playing against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on Saturday, the Lions were in Waitangi when they heard about the tragic events in London where seven people were killed and more than 40 were injured. When quizzed on the latest round of implied All Blacks scorn on the Lions' gameplan, head coach Gatland vowed the tourists will build a varied attacking strategy.

Flick the switch from 2009 to 2017 though, and the 27-year-old is not only a senior member of Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad - he will now make his Lions debut in Wednesday's Eden Park clash with the Blues.

The Kiwi was responding to opposite number Steve Hansen who said he doesnot expect Gatland to stray from the physical approach that he has used throughout his coaching career. "We experienced that four years ago [by winning the series in Australia] where people made a decision to be critical and a lot of people got caught with their trousers down afterwards, didn't they?"

While Gatland has named two quality England locks in Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje for the Blues match, he is clearly going to name a near test-strength side for the Crusaders at AMI Stadium on Saturday and there is a danger that a fired-up challenge from Tana Umaga's men could catch his side out like the Provincial Barbarians so almost did.

"The message to the players is that we want to play positive rugby, we want to be able to move the ball and shift and create chances".

Payne is also relishing his return, having overcome his calf problem to start alongside Robbie Henshaw at outside centre, opposite the All Black pairing of Sonny Bill Williams and George Moala. "He's got some real skill and ability and we want to see that on Wednesday night".

"We don't want to put too much pressure on the young man but an opportunity against the British and Irish Lions doesn't come around every day and we don't have to talk about how big this game is for anyone".

"These players are being encouraged to demonstrate their level of skill, and to go out there and to do that".

"In future performances and wins, we'll dedicate to those who have been involved and I guess we can play a small part in trying to cheer a majority of the nation up by trying to be successful over here".

Gatland was at pains to remind everyone yesterday that there remains... Gatland led the Lions to a fine series win in Australia in 2013, and then pointed to his sustained success with
Waikato, Wasps and Wales to underscore why he feels fully justified in coaching his own way - and without style tips from the outside.

Gatland was clearly annoyed by the latest dig, adding: "When did that way (coaching style) start?" You don't know the answer to that do you?

"If you can tell me the answer to that, when that time frame was appropriate, I
can potentially give you an answer".

In the meantime, Gatland's new boys, including one Jared Payne, a former Blues player and adopted Irishman, have the opportunity to put a new perspective on a tour which has begun so unconvincingly.

"They're exciting, got power right across the field and some very skilful players (that) play an expansive brand of rugby, so it'll be a pretty tough game", Payne said.


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