Owens to captain new-look Lions XV against Blues


Ken Owens will captain the British and Irish Lions against the Blues on Wednesday as Warren Gatland names a new-look starting XV.

Scarlets hooker Owens has overcome an ankle injury to take his place on the tour and will skipper a team featuring 11 Lions debutants, including himself.

Gatland's men opened their campaign with an unconvincing 13-7 victory over the largely semi-professional Provincial Barbarians and will come up against eight All Blacks when they face the Blues in Auckland this week.

"We have made 15 changes to the starting XV and we are excited to see what this team is able to do against the Blues on Wednesday," said Gatland.

"We have stated from the off that we want to give every player a start in the first three games and Wednesday is an opportunity for this set of players to show what they can do in a Lions jersey.

"It was good to get the win under our belts last weekend. The boys in the stand were itching to get their chance and they are really excited about Wednesday.

"In terms of Ken, he has worked really hard on his recovery and it's great to have him available. He has captained the Scarlets and has assumed a leadership role within the camp and it is a great opportunity for him."

Owens is joined by Jack McGrath and Dan Cole in the front row, ahead of the English lock pairing of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes.

Justin Tipuric steps in for international team-mate and Lions squad captain Sam Warburton at flanker, with James Haskell and CJ Stander completing the back row.

Dan Biggar will get the chance to stake his claim for the Test number 10 jersey in an all-Welsh half-back line-up alongside Rhys Webb, while Irish duo Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne are named at centre.

Elliot Daly and Jack Nowell are selected on the wings, with Toulon full-back Leigh Halfpenny at 15.


Lions XV: Leigh Halfpenny, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Elliot Daly, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Jack McGrath, Ken Owens (captain), Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, James Haskell, Justin Tipuric, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Rory Best, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Iain Henderson, Peter O'Mahony, Greig Laidlaw, Jonathan Sexton, Liam Williams.