Rugby Union

Ireland's Peter O'Mahony leads the Lions in first test

Peter O'Mahony will skipper the British and Irish Lions team in Saturday's first test against the All Blacks
From Andrew Baldock, Press Association Sport Rugby Union Correspondent, Auckland

PETER O'Mahony has been described as "exactly the character you need" for a British and Irish Lions tour as he prepares to captain the tourists against New Zealand on Saturday.

Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree also believes there is an element of 2009 tour skipper Paul O'Connell about Munster star O'Mahony, who leads the team ahead of squad captain Sam Warburton.

Warburton has to be content with a place on the bench, with O'Mahony packing down in the back-row alongside Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau.

"He has that Paul O'Connell kind of DNA in him, being a Munster man," Rowntree said of O'Mahony as he spoke ahead of Wednesday's Lions team announcement.

"He is a good guy as well, very diligent, not afraid in training of saying, 'Lads, this isn't good enough'.

"You look at his game last Saturday night (against the New Zealand Maori). His involvements were high and effective. I thought he dealt with the referee well as well, respectfully speaking to the referee without being in his ear too much.

"I have enjoyed working with him. I've coached against him for a long time, and he is always a handful when you are playing against Ireland.

"I think he was one player who would have been earmarked from an early stage for a Lions tour. He is exactly the character you need – a guy who would get on with things if he wasn't involved in the Test squad.

"He is a good fella. I can't speak highly enough of him. The lads respect his actions and want to follow him."

Rowntree, meanwhile, has no doubt about the Test team attributes of England internationals and first-time Lions tourists Ben Te'o and Jamie George, who have both made head coach Warren Gatland's starting line-up.

"Ben has played some pretty big matches in his career, in both codes," Rowntree added.

"Jamie George is a European champion. I have no qualms about either one of those starting a Test, no qualms at all.

"Jamie is leading that group already, in terms of vocally and at the set-piece. His performances speak for themselves."

The All Blacks are unbeaten at Eden Park since 1994, a 38-game sequence that underlines the degree of difficulty facing Gatland's men this weekend.

"We have trained hard and fast, which you have to to play the All Blacks," Rowntree said.

"The ball is on the field for a long time – it's a quick game – and we have put the players under a lot of stress. They have trained exceptionally hard.

"The guys are ready to go. We've got a healthy squad all chomping at the bit."

British and Irish Lions team to face New Zealand in Saturday's first Test in Auckland

L Williams (Wales); A Watson (England), J Davies (Wales), B Te'o, E Daly; O Farrell (all England), C Murray (Ireland); M Vunipola, J George (both England), T Furlong (Ireland), AW Jones (Wales), G Kruis (England), P O'Mahony (capt), S O'Brien (both Ireland), T Faletau (Wales)

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), K Sinckler, M Itoje (both England), S Warburton, R Webb (both Wales), J Sexton (Ireland), L Halfpenny (Wales)

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