Lions tour: Series decider against All Blacks is not career-defining for Lions players or coaching staff- Warren Gatland

  • 06/07/2017

Warren Gatland has thrown down the gauntlet to his British and Irish Lions troops, saying Saturday's Test series decider against the All Blacks is a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity they can't let slip.

Fresh from a four-day stint in Queenstown, the Lions arrived in Auckland on Wednesday night and have named an unchanged line-up from that which scraped over the line 24-21 in Wellington last weekend.

In what is almost certainly his last match at the Lions helm, Gatland insisted neither he nor his players considered the Test career-defining.

Yet he seemed to backtrack when pressed, admitting there was plenty of pressure on all parties to perform - with the side in a position to do what none of their forebears have done since 1971, and win a series on Kiwi soil.

The players would return to their home unions irrespective of the result, but could write a chapter of Lions history through victory.

"It's a pressure you relish and it's why you do all those hours of training and preparation, because you want those moments, those big moments in sport - sometimes they don't come around that often," Gatland said.

"That's pressure about the match - not about the future.

"We have a chance to do something special and (when) you get those moments in your life, you don't want those moments to pass you by."

Gatland's persistence with his matchday XXIII contrasts with the All Blacks, who have promoted one-Test rookies Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape.

It's the first time any Lions Test team has been unchanged since the 1993 decider at Eden Park, when the circumstances were remarkably similar - and the All Blacks claimed the spoils with a 30-13 win.

Gatland expressed some surprise that rampaging 53-Test winger Julian Savea was given the nod over an ill Rieko Ioane, who scored a first-Test double.

But in the light of Barrett and Laumape's promotions, it was understandable.

"Obviously he's called back in because of his experience," Gatland said.

"We expect the All Blacks to defensively be much more aggressive, expected Savea to play a lot more frontline, shut us down from a defensive point of view, and I think that's the reason the decision's been made."