Ken Owens to skipper Lions against Blues

6:11 AM BST

Wales hooker Ken Owens has the honour of captaining the British & Irish Lions against the Blues on Wednesday at Eden Park.

Warren Gatland has rung the changes from the side that opened their 2017 tour with a nervy 13-7 win in Whangarei with Owens recovering from his calf injury to skipper the new-look team.

Owens is joined by Jack McGrath and Dan Cole in the front-row with England duo Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes linking up in the second-row. James Haskell, the injury replacement for Billy Vunipola, starts at blindside while Justin Tipuric earns a start at openside having featured on the bench in their opener. CJ Stander completes the back-row at No.8.

The half-backs are an all-Wales affair with Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar linking up while Ireland duo Robbie Henshaw and Jared Payne start in the centres. Jack Nowell and Elllot Daly get the nod on the wings while Leigh Halfpenny starts at fullback.

On the bench, Gatland includes six players who started against the NZ Provincial Barbarians with Liam Williams and Peter O’Mahony looking to get their first match action of the tour from the replacements.

Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

“In terms of Ken, he has worked really hard on his recovery and it’s great to have him available,” Gatland said. “He has captained the Scarlets and has assumed a leadership role within the camp and it is a great opportunity for him.

“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 have a few work ons from last weekend and we know we need to be more clinical. We created some good opportunities against the Barbarians but didn’t see them through and that is something we want to improve on.”

British & Irish Lions team:

Leigh Halfpenny, Jack Nowell, Jared Payne, Robbie Henshaw, Elliot Daly, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Jack McGrath, Ken Owens (captain), Dan Cole, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, James Haskell, Justin Tipuric, CJ Stander

Replacements: Rory Best, Joe Marler, Kyle Sinckler, Iain Henderson, Peter O’Mahony, Greig Laidlaw, Johnny Sexton, Liam Williams

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