Warren Gatland has named his 23 for the match against the Maori All Blacks on Saturday morning –
15 Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon/WAL), 14 Anthony Watson (Bath/ENG), 13 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/WAL), 12 Ben Te’o (Worcester/ENG), 11 George North (Northampton/ENG), 10 Johnny Sexton (Leinster/IRL), 9 Conor Murray (Munster/IRL), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Bath/WAL), 7 Sean O’Brien (Leinster/IRL), 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain – Munster/IRL), 5 George Kruis, Saracens/ENG), 4 Maro Itoje (Saracens/ENG), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/IRL), 2 Jamie George (Saracens/ENG), 1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens/ENG)
Substitutes: Ken Owens (Scarlets/WAL), Jack McGrath (Leinster/IRL), Kyle Sinckler(Harlequins/ENG), Iain Henderson (Ulster/IRL), Sam Warburton (Cardiff/WAL), Greig Laidlaw (Gloucester/SCO), Dan Biggar (Ospreys/WAL), Elliot Daly (Wasps/ENG)
It now shows one change from the side announced yesterday – worryingly Owen Farrell has an injury that may even keep him out of contention for the 1st test. His place on the bench goes to Dan Biggar.
The list gives some indications of who will get one of the coveted 23 test shirts on the 24th, but as Gatland has maintained all along, “we don’t want to show our full hand”. His view is that he doesn’t want to give any added advantage to Steve Hansen.
The initial question marks over this selection focussed mainly on Sexton/Farrell, Warburton/O’Brien and Itoje/Wyn Jones.
The possibility of Sexton and/or Farrell in the test side has been somewhat removed by this morning’s news about Owen Farrell.
If fit, it seems unlikely that Farrell wouldn’t start at either 10 or 12, but with Warren Gatland you never know – remember the controversy in 2013 over Jonathan Davies and BOD.
Personally I like the look of this back row and if it were me Sam would have to settle for a seat on the bench – but then its not me is it?
But I’m guessing that Sam and Maro may well be sitting next to each other next Saturday – at least until the second half. Gatland will be reluctant to lose AWJ and I believe will make him captain for the 1st test.
But first is the little matter of the Maori ABs to deal with.