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

Updated: 

After years of anticipation stretching back to the fateful and anticlimactic tour of 2005, the outcome of the British and Irish Lions' long-awaited series against New Zealand will come down to 80 intense minutes at the All Blacks' Eden Park fortress on Saturday.

The world champions have not lost in Auckland since 1994 and were predictably dominant there in the series opener two weeks ago, when a Rieko Ioane brace in the second half neutralised the Lions' thrilling breakaway try, scored by Sean O'Brien, the hosts running out 30-15 winners.

It was a different, more intriguing story last weekend in Wellington, where Sonny Bill Williams' indiscipline - he was sent off after just 24 minutes for a shoulder charge to Anthony Watson's face - opened the door, and the visitors duly barged through. Tries from Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray made the victory possible and Owen Farrell's unerring accuracy from the kicking tee finished the job.

The England fly-half's boot is likely to be vital again in the decider, should the Lions remain in the contest against a New Zealand team who will not only be back to a full complement of players but also stinging with the pain of a rare reverse. 

The hosts' coach Steve Hansen has made three changes for the finale, with Jordie Barrett taking over at full-back in the continued absence of Ben Smith, who is suffering from an ear problem. That role was occupied by Israel Dagg in the second Test, but he reverts to the wing in this one, Waisake Naholo making way.

Julian Savea, on the verge of becoming the All Blacks' record Test try-scorer and an unexpected absentee from the first two encounters, finally comes into the XV for Ioane. Ngani Laumape takes over from the suspended Williams at inside centre for what is captain Kieran Read's 100th appearance. Gatland's Lions, meanwhile, are unchanged. 

 

HEAD TO HEAD

New Zealand: 30
British and Irish Lions: 7
Draw: 3

 

KEY PLAYERS

Jordie Barrett (New Zealand)

Much is expected of every All Black newcomer, but there can be few more searching examinations for a player making his first start than taking on the British and Irish Lions in a series decider.

That is the challenge that awaits Barrett on Saturday, as the youngest brother of Beauden and Scott, the latter among the replacements, joins his siblings in the New Zealand fold, having made his debut off the bench against Samoa.

Mako Vunipola (British and Irish Lions)

Loosehead prop Vunipola was said to be in the selection firing line for the decider after struggling against All Blacks tighthead Owen Franks in the scrum during the second Test, while also conceding four penalties and being sent to the sin bin. 

Warren Gatland, though, has kept faith with the Saracens forward, who now has an opportunity to reward his coach and play a part in what could be a famous Lions triumph. 

 

THE LINE-UPS

New Zealand: Jordie Barrett, Israel Dagg, Anton Lienert-Brown, Ngani Laumape, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith; Joe Moody, Codie Taylor, Owen Franks, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Jerome Kaino, Sam Cane, Kieran Read.

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

Steve Hansen (New Zealand): "Is the Lions series usually significant? Of course it is because it only happens once every 12 years. Will it define this team and will it define the people in this team? No. 

"Because there's a heck of a lot more of this story to be written. But what it will do, win lose or draw, is, as I said before, it will make this team stronger. And that will be good."

Warren Gatland (British and Irish Lions): "You get those moments in your life and you don't want those moments to pass you by, that is what big occasions and big sporting events are about.

"You have got to be excited, it is a pressure that you relish. This is what you do all the training for, you want those moments and sometimes they don't come around that often."

 

OPTA STATS

- The Lions have won their third Test on each of their last two tours, though they haven't won a third Test against the All Backs since a 13-3 victory in 1971.

- New Zealand are undefeated (W6, D1) in their last seven Tests against the Lions at Eden Park, including wins in each of their last five by an average margin of 17 points.

- Victory for the Lions would see them win just their second ever Test series against the All Blacks after taking two wins and a draw from a four-game series in 1971.

- The Lions have won four of their last six Tests, however they will be aiming for back-to-back wins against the All Blacks for the first time in history.

- The last time the All Blacks lost consecutive fixtures on home turf was against Australia and South Africa in the 1998 Tri-Nations; while the last time any team beat the All Blacks twice during a single tour to New Zealand was France in 1994.

- Kieran Read is set to play his 100th Test for the All Blacks, becoming just the seventh New Zealand player to reach a century of Test caps.