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Payne returns to start as Lions squad to face Blues is announced

Ulster's Jared Payne will start the second game of the British and Irish Lions' tour of New Zealand.

The 31 year-old returns from a calf strain that kept him out of the side's opening 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians on Saturday.

As Head Coach Warren Gatland changes all of his starting XV, Payne is one of four Irishmen that will start against the Blues on Wednesday (kick-off 8.35am BST).

Leinster's Robbie Henshaw joins Payne in an all-Irish midfield while Jack McGrath plays in the front row and CJ Stander also starts.

The side will be captained by Wales hooker Ken Owens against a Blues team that features eight All-Blacks in their line-up, including double World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams.

"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,” 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.”

There are places on the bench for Jonny Sexton, who endured a difficult opening game, brought off after 49 minutes, and for Rory Best.

The selection leaves Irishmen Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Conor Murray and Tadgh Furlong likely to start the game against Crusaders on Saturday.

British and Irish Lions squad to face Blues; Halfpenny; Nowell, Payne, Henshaw, Daly; Biggar, Webb; McGrath, Owens, Cole; Itoje, Lawes; Haskell, Tipuric, Stander.

Replacements: Best, Marler, Sinckler, Henderson, O'Mahony, Laidlaw, Sexton, Williams

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