New Zealand v British and Irish Lions: Everything you need to know

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It is now or never for the British and Irish Lions, who must defeat the all-conquering New Zealand in Wellington on Saturday if they are to keep their series hopes alive.

Following mixed results in preparation for last weekend's opening Test, the Lions were beaten 30-15 by a ruthless All Blacks outfit, who showed exactly why they are the two-time defending world champions.

One feels Steve Hansen would have ideally stuck with the same XV that proved too strong at Eden Park, but his hand has been forced by injuries to Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty, meaning Waisake Naholo and Anton Lienert-Brown come in at wing and centre respectively, Israel Dagg switching to full-back.

The Lions have also made changes. Sam Warburton replaces Peter O'Mahony in the back row and as skipper, while Maro Itoje comes in for George Kruis at lock and will be charged with running the line-out.

There is also a reshuffle in the backs as Jonathan Sexton takes the 10 jersey and Owen Farrell moves to inside centre with Ben Te'o perhaps unfortunate to drop to the bench.

Last Saturday's result prompted some critics to ask familiar questions about the merit of Lions tours, but All Blacks captain Kieran Read is of the opposite view.

"It's just been so exciting being around the country the last couple of weeks," he said. "It's been awesome, the Lions are so passionate about the game and I'm sure it will continue."

Read's enthusiasm notwithstanding, another resounding home success at Westpac Stadium - where the Lions gave up a 23-7 half-time lead to draw 31-31 with the Hurricanes on Tuesday - will only provide further fuel for the nay-sayers.

 

HEAD TO HEAD

New Zealand: 30
British and Irish Lions: 6 
Draw: 3

 

KEY PLAYERS

Waisake Naholo (New Zealand)

The Lions are already well aware of Naholo's devastating attacking talent, the wing having crossed the whitewash during the Highlanders' 23-22 victory earlier in the tour. The Lions may seek to take advantage of Smith's absence and target Naholo with the high ball, but they will have to be mindful of his countering ability as the All Blacks' back line is now blessed with an arguably more dangerous offensive weapon.

Sam Warburton (British and Irish Lions)

All Blacks skipper Read believes the Lions will target the breakdown area more so than last time out, and Warburton will be key to that game plan. The Welshman came off the bench early in the second half to replace O'Mahony in Auckland, and will be expected to lead from the front - as he did so in the victorious tour of Australia four years ago - if the Lions are to keep the series alive.

 

THE LINE-UPS

New Zealand:  Israel Dagg, Waisake Naholo, Anton Lienert-Brown, Sonny Bill Williams, Rieko Ioane, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Samuel Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read (captain).

British and Irish Lions: Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Warburton, Sean O'Brien, Taulupe Faletau.

 

PRE-MATCH TALK

Kieran Read (New Zealand captain): "They're definitely going to target the breakdown more this week than last. But if we can dominate some ball carries then hopefully it nullifies what they've got. If we're sitting back and waiting, and trying to expect what the Lions will bring, we'll be dominated. If anything it's going to be even more physical than last week and we can't wait for that battle. We've got to expect that."

Andy Farrell (British and Irish Lions assistant coach): "We have had a lot more time to reflect, review and put to bed the first Test and taking the learning from it and move onto this one. It is about character for us this week, it is about manning up and putting everything on the line because it is that situation isn't it? It's do or die for us. These guys are a little bit hurt...and we will see what we are made of this week."

 

OPTA STATS

- The Lions have lost the second Test on each of their last four tours, last winning such a game in South Africa in 1997.

- The All Blacks have won 12 of the last 13 meetings between the sides; the Lions' only win in that run came in the second Test in 1993.

- The All Blacks have not lost on home soil so far this decade, winning 47 in a row since losing to South Africa in Hamilton in 2009.

- Rieko Ioane gained 86 metres in the opening Test, more than any other player on the pitch, his three tries against the Lions are the joint most of any player to play for or against the Lions on this tour (Tommy Seymour also 3).

- Beauden Barrett has made 13 of his 14 (93 per cent) kicks at goal for the All Blacks so far in 2017, he landed just 70 per cent (49/70) for New Zealand in 2016.