Belfast Telegraph

Gatland calls on Sexton to prove he's one of the world's greatest

 

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Warren Gatland wants Johnny Sexton to issue a reminder of why he is considered one of the best out-halves in the world when he dons the Lions No.10 shirt tomorrow morning.

The Ireland star is in a three-way battle with England's Owen Farrell and Wales' Dan Biggar for the starting Test spot against the All Blacks and the clash with the Provincial Barbarians is the first chance to impress.

Gatland suggested he may pair Sexton and Farrell at some point of the opening game in Whangarei, but insisted his current inclination is to consider the Saracens man a direct rival to the Leinster pivot.

"We're starting Johnny because he hasn't played a lot of rugby," he said. "The three No.10s came in (to camp) together but we felt Johnny needed to start this first game, get some rugby under his belt and get off to a good start - hopefully for the team but himself as well because he hasn't played a huge amount of rugby.

"He's been great. He knows he needs to get some games under his belt. He knows that the competition is pretty fierce in that position, but he's a competitor and that's what has made him one of the best No.10s in world rugby.

"I've got no doubt he'd want a good performance from himself on Saturday.

"He needs to go out there and hopefully perform well. He's got some exciting players around him in terms of forwards and some pace in the backline.

"Hopefully with his skill-set he's able to put players in holes and create some space and cause the opposition some headaches."

British and Irish Lions team to face New Zealand Provincial Barbarians tomorrow: S Hogg (Scotland), A Watson, J Joseph, B Te'o (all England), T Seymour (Scotland), J Sexton (Ireland), G Laidlaw (Scotland), J Marler (England), R Best (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), A Jones (Wales), I Henderson (Ireland), R Moriarty, S Warburton, T Faletau (all Wales).

Replacements: J George, M Vunipola (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), G Kruis (England), J Tipuric, R Webb (both Wales), O Farrell (England), J Payne (Ireland).

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