Three Irish picked in Lions team for first tour match

They take on the NZ Provincial Barbarians

BY Raf Diallo 20:31 Wednesday 31 May 2017, 20:31 31 May 2017

©INPHO/Presseye/Philip Magowan

British and Irish Lions rugby union head coach Warren Gatland has named his team for their opening match on the tour of New Zealand.

Sam Warburton will captain the side when they take on the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday.

He is one of six players in the starting line up that featured for the Lions in 2013.

Three Irish players have been included for the match.

Leinster and Ireland out half Jonathan Sexton will start at No 10, while Ireland captain Rory Best is the designated hooker.

Best's Ulster and Ireland team-mate Iain Henderson has also been picked to start in the second row at No 5.

Meanwhile, on the bench, there are two Ireland internationals present to be introduced during the match.

Ireland and Ulster centre and full back Jared Payne and Leinster and Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong are the duo who will be tasked with providing an impact from the substitutes bench for that opening match. 

Explaining the decisions, Gatland said: "We have named a side that showcases a strong combination of experience and youth and we are really looking forward to Saturday.

"We are lucky to have some real leaders in the squad and to be able to select them for this match in the likes of Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and Greig Laidlaw.

"I’m looking forward to seeing what Greig can do alongside Johnny Sexton who both are experienced half-backs. It is also great to have Sam starting in the first game of the tour, something he didn’t do in 2013 and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend.

"The balance of the squad is really good, we have selected the majority of players who were together for the training weeks in Wales and Ireland and they have worked together and prepared well for a number of weeks."

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