British and Irish Lions: Wales hooker Ken Owens captains side against Blues

By Chris JonesBBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter in Auckland
British & Irish Lions
The first Test against the All Blacks is on 24 June in Auckland

Wales hooker Ken Owens will captain the British and Irish Lions in the second match of their New Zealand tour, against a Blues side that features eight All Blacks in the starting XV.

Fellow Welshmen Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar are at half-back for the Lions, with the England pair of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes in the second row.

Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne form an all-Irish midfield.

Double World Cup winner Sonny Bill Williams starts for the Blues.

Bristol-bound Steven Luatua is also among the New Zealand internationals to line up for the Super Rugby team in Auckland.

Elsewhere for the Lions, Jack McGrath and Dan Cole start alongside Owens in the front row, with James Haskell, Justin Tipuric and CJ Stander in the back row.

Elliot Daly, Jack Nowell and three-time tourist Leigh Halfpenny make up the back three.

The Lions started their tour of New Zealand with a nervy 13-7 victory over the Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei on Saturday.

"We have stated from the off that we want to give every player a start in the first three games and Wednesday is an opportunity for this set of players to show what they can do in a Lions jersey," head coach Warren Gatland said.

"We are expecting a big crowd at Eden Park. It will be the first of three matches there for us and we know the atmosphere will be outstanding. We are hoping for some good weather and are expecting a tough, fast and open game of rugby.

"We created some good opportunities against the Barbarians but didn't see them through and that is something we want to improve on."

Gatland's desire to give every player a start in one of the first three matches means Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, Tadgh Furlong, George Kruis, Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Jonathan Davies, George North and Liam Williams are all set to start against the Crusaders on Saturday.

Umaga picks strong Blues side

Blues head coach Tana Umaga has selected an entirely All Black front row with Ofa Tu'ungafasi alongside captain James Parsons and Charlie Faumuina.

Twice-capped All Black Augustine Pulu is at scrum-half, with fellow New Zealand internationals Rieko Ioane, Williams, and George Moala in the backline.

Dual code international Williams faces a late fitness test - TJ Faiane has been named on standby - but is expected to be fit to start.

Umaga comes up against the Lions for the first time since 2005, when as a player he led the All Blacks to a 3-0 series whitewash.

However his involvement was controversial - he and hooker Keven Mealamu were guilty of a dangerous tackle in the first Test which ruled Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll out of the tour with a dislocated shoulder.

"It's not about that time now, that was 12 years ago," Umaga said.

"If people can't put that behind them then I suppose they never will. It's about this group now, and their time against the Lions, and the memories they make. Hopefully they are positive ones."

Lions team to play Blues

Halfpenny; Nowell, Payne, Henshaw, Daly; Biggar, Webb; McGrath, Owens (captain), Cole, Itoje, Lawes, Haskell, Tipuric, Stander

Replacements: Best, Marler, Sinckler, Henderson, O'Mahony, Laidlaw, Sexton, L Williams

2017 Lions tour schedule

June 3 - 13-7 v Provincial Barbarians, Whangarei
June 7 - Blues, Auckland
June 10 - Crusaders, Christchurch
June 13 - Highlanders, Dunedin
June 17 - Maori All Blacks, Rotorua
June 20 - Chiefs, Hamilton
June 24 - All Blacks, Auckland
June 27 - Hurricanes, Wellington
July 1 - All Blacks, Wellington
July 8 - All Blacks, Auckland

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