British and Irish Lions: Owen Farrell injured, Johnny Sexton starts v Maori All Blacks

Owen Farrell
Owen Farrell featured in the third Lions Test in Australia four years ago
Maori All Blacks v British and Irish Lions
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium Date: Saturday, 17 June Kick-off: 08:35 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

The British and Irish Lions face an anxious wait over the fitness of fly-half Owen Farrell after he suffered a quadriceps injury in training.

Farrell had been named on the bench for the match against the Maori All Blacks on Saturday, but has now been replaced in the matchday squad by Dan Biggar.

Johnny Sexton starts at 10 in Rotorua (08:35 BST), with fellow Irishman Peter O'Mahony captaining from the flank.

The first Test of the Lions' series against New Zealand is on June 24.

Tour skipper Sam Warburton is among the replacements for Saturday's game while Maro Itoje starts at lock in an otherwise unchanged pack from the one that beat the Crusaders last Saturday.

Before news of Farrell's injury emerged, head coach Warren Gatland had spoken of "keeping the All Blacks guessing" with his team selection.

Sexton, 31, has not started since the first match of the tour against the Provincial Barbarians, but came off the bench to good effect in the win over the Crusaders in Christchurch.

He partners fellow Irishman Conor Murray at half-back.

"Johnny needs some more rugby and he's got a bit of his mojo back, so we wanted to give him a start," Gatland added.

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Analysis

The Lions have yet to offer a prognosis on Farrell, and while a grade one strain will not be tour-ending, there is cause for concern.

Depending on the severity, an injury like this can keep a player out for up to 10 days, so Farrell may face a race against time to face the All Blacks in Auckland.

Lions supporters will hope it is just precautionary, and Farrell will be at full fitness for the start of the series against the world champions.

The teams

Maori All Blacks: J Lowe; N Milner-Skudder, M Proctor, C Ngatai, R Ioane; D McKenzie, T Kerr-Barlow; K Hames, A Dixon (capt), B May, J Wheeler, T Franklin, A Ioane, E Dixon, L Messam.

Replacements: H Elliot, C Eves, M Renata, L Price, K Pryor, B Hall, I West, R Thompson.

Lions: L Halfpenny (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te'o (England), G North (Wales); J Sexton, C Murray (both Ireland); M Vunipola, J George (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), M Itoje, G Kruis (both England), P O'Mahony (capt, Ireland), S O'Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler (England), I Henderson (Ireland), S Warburton (Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland), D Biggar (Wales), E Daly (England).

'This tour isn't about Sam Warburton'

Gatland says Warburton is aware of the competition he faces in the back row if he is to start the first Test.

Warburton returned from a minor ankle injury to play over an hour in the midweek defeat by the Highlanders in Dunedin.

"He is fully aware that loose-forward trio went extremely well against the Crusaders," Gatland said.

"This tour isn't about Sam Warburton, it's about putting the squad first, so if he isn't involved in the first Test he will fully understand that."

Elswehere, Ben Te'o is alongside Jonathan Davies in the midfield, with George North, Anthony Watson and Leigh Halfpenny in the back three.

Liam Williams does not feature in the matchday squad for the second successive game.

Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Tadgh Furlong continue their combination in the front row.

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Warburton happy with form and fitness

Maori a 'unique spectacle'

Gatland says a fixture against the Maori is one of the "unique spectacles in world rugby".

The Maori starting XV features experienced All Blacks such as scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow and wing Nehe Milner-Skudder.

The potent backline also includes fly-half Damian McKenzie, Charlie Ngatai and Reiko Ioane, who scored against the Lions for the Blues and has been named in the New Zealand squad for the Test matches.

"We experienced a powerful powhiri on Monday which really resonated with the boys and it's been great to be here in Rotorua and feel all the support," said Maori head coach Colin Cooper.

"It's really lifted the team and helped bring them together as a unit. We recognise the challenge that is ahead of us on Saturday, but we're really excited as a group by the opportunity we have to represent New Zealand, Maoridom and the fans that will descend on Rotorua this weekend."

The tour schedule

Lions tour
3 JuneProvincial BarbariansWon 13-7
7 JuneBluesLost 22-16
10 JuneCrusadersWon 12-3
13 JuneHighlandersLost 23-22
17 JuneMaori All Blacks
20 JuneChiefs
24 JuneNew Zealand
27 JuneHurricanes
1 JulyNew Zealand
8 JulyNew Zealand

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