Lions show their teeth to give Gatland food for thought


Much of the talk was over who was not playing for the British and Irish Lions on Saturday but those donning the famous red jersey against the Maori All Blacks certainly made their mark.

The Lions were rampant at a wet Rotorua International Stadium, controlling the match in difficult conditions and easing to a dominant 32-10 victory.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen had raised doubts over whether the tourists could come up with a formula to compete with his world champions after their 78-0 thumping of Samoa on Friday.

Warren Gatland suggested Hansen might be worried about the Lions, just a week before the two sides lock horns in the first of three Tests in Auckland next weekend.

With the mind games continuing, the Lions kept their heads to beat the Maori by a record margin and show they mean business.

While Gatland was calling up six replacements, Owen Farrell was not risked as a precaution due to a quadriceps injury and captain Sam Warburton played a limited part.

Questions have been raised over Warburton's place in the side and he has been troubled by an ankle problem, but the performance of Sean O'Brien in a commanding display in Rotorua could earn him a start in the first Test anyway.

Gatland is optimistic Farrell will be fit, but Jonathan Sexton's outstanding display seven days before the start of the series may mean he gets the nod at number 10 anyway.

Farrell might have to count on playing at centre, as he has done for England, yet Ben Te'o caught the eye once again, so Gatland has some big decisions to make, with another warm-up against Chiefs to come on Tuesday.

Wales quartet Tomas Francis, Kristian Dacey, Cory Hill and Gareth Davies were added to the squad - prompting England boss Eddie Jones, among others, to question his selections, before Scotland's Finn Russell and Allan Dell also got the call.

While their travel arrangements were being sorted, the men who ruthlessly set about seeing off the Maori All Blacks in such a convincing manner could not have done much more to stake their claims.

Hansen has had plenty to say on the Lions' style of play under Gatland, but it worked a treat as they prevented the Maori from showing what they are capable of with ball in hand.

The kicking of Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny - who nailed all seven kicks and has not missed one shot at goal on tour - was exceptional, while the Lions dominated the set-piece and were excellent all over the park.

Whether they can be as effective against the All Blacks remains to be seen, but Gatland has certainly been given plenty to ponder.