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Sir Clive Woodward backs Lions forwards to lead them to victory

Sir Clive Woodward has backed the British and Irish Lions' pack to lead the tourists to victory in Saturday's first Test against the All Blacks.

England's World Cup-winning coach - who led the Lions in their three-nil series defeat in New Zealand in 2005 - hailed Peter O'Mahony's captaincy and tipped Warren Gatland's men to upset the All Blacks in Auckland.

Ireland's O'Mahony will captain the Lions at Eden Park on Saturday, with tour skipper Sam Warburton on the bench.

Warburton becomes the first tour captain since Doug Prentice in 1930 not to lead the Lions in an opening Test.

Woodward tweeted: "Congrats @peterom6, totally deserved & while team selection is excellent, a clear statement to @AllBlacks-Lions forwards can win this game."

Lions boss Gatland has preferred Liam Williams to Leigh Halfpenny at full-back in a surprise selection for the opening Test clash.

England wing Elliot Daly has edged into the starting XV on the left wing, with Wales powerhouse George North omitted from the 23.

And England's Maro Itoje must be content with a seat on the bench as cover at lock, with Wales' Alun Wyn Jones starting in the second row alongside George Kruis.

The 2005 Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll also hailed Munster flanker O'Mahony's call as skipper, while backing Saracens-bound Williams and Wasps' Daly to thrive in the Test line-up.

"What a brilliant achievement for @peterom6 to captain the @lionsofficial this weekend," tweeted O'Driscoll.

"Great shout having @SanjayWills at 15. Strong call. Daly a good shout too. No Itoje not sure..."

Former Ireland and Munster hooker Frankie Sheahan, now a sports agent, tweeted a family snap of himself and his neighbour, a young O'Mahony, in paying tribute to the Lions skipper.

"So proud of @peterom6 - friend, neighbour and former client. I predicted he would captain the Lions years ago. Photo of us when he was a kid!"


From Belfast Telegraph