O'Mahony brings 'Munster mongrel' to Lions

Peter O'Mahony will hope to pay back Paul O'Connell when he follows in his footsteps this weekend by captaining the British and Irish Lions against the Maori All Blacks, and admitted that his injury nightmare past year led him to believe he would not even make the squad for the tour of New Zealand.

Lions chief Gatland has said from day one that he wouldn't show his best team for this New Zealand Maori game.

And as he gets set to follow in his mentor O'Connell's footsteps, Lions coach Warren Gatland is expecting O'Mahony to bring something the former Munster lock also brought as captain.

"They've just got to gel and keep working together".

Smith will lead a vastly experienced New Zealand unit containing 871 Test caps while also including two new All Blacks Jordie Barrett and Vaea Fifita on the bench.

Victory in the unofficial fourth Test against the Maori All Blacks could prove absolutely vital to the success of this Lions tour but they will be without Owen Farrell on Saturday.

"But this tour isn't about Sam Warburton, it's about putting the squad first".

A capacity crowd is expected this weekend but the Lions are no strangers to Rotorua, having defeated the Bay of Plenty on the same soil in 2005.

All that could be about to chance, at least according to All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen.

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"I have enjoyed working with him and hopefully we can play a full game", said Davies.

"Samoa is about to kick off the qualifying stage of their Rugby World Cup campaign, so this will make them even more risky", Hansen said.

All Blacks selectors will look closely at the form of scrumhalf Aaron Smith, under pressure from T.J. Perenara, and centre Sonny Bill Williams, who could start against the Lions if Ryan Crotty is unfit.

Codie Taylor will start at hooker in the absence of Dane Coles, who is recovering from concussion. I have put a lot of hard work into my career and you have got to take your opportunities when they come.

"We have to be smart".

Friday's Pacific Challenge is a rarity which will see two test matches played at the same venue on the same day.

Tonight though the All Blacks play Samoa in the Pasifika Challenge double header at Auckland's Eden Park right after Tonga play Wales.

"Whilst the Lions is a dance that's happening in the background, there's a responsibility to the jersey and those that been before us that we go out and take this test match seriously and respect Samoan rugby for what it is". I came over here in a good place and was reasonably happy with my game. Hansen said, adding: "There is definitely a difference between the two squads in the way they're performing".

But I never said I wanted to play for the Lions at the end of this, I never said I wanted to get back to play for Ireland.

  • Lawrence Cooper