O'Mahony leads experienced Lions against Maori All Blacks
Last Updated: 15/06/17 4:49pm
Peter O'Mahony will captain an experienced British and Irish Lions team for the match against the Maori All Blacks on Saturday but tour skipper Sam Warburton gets another chance to press his claim for a Test spot from the bench.
Warburton arrived on tour having not played since April due to a knee injury, and only returned to action in the opening match against the Provincial Barbarians, a 13-7 victory.
The flanker scored a try in Tuesday's loss to the Highlanders but will be hoping for plenty of game time to impress in Rotorua on Saturday, given the back-row talent coach Warren Gatland has available to him.
Gatland was expected to select close to his first-choice side for the fifth match of the tour, with the first Test against the All Blacks only a week away.
If that is the case, then the New Zealander will clearly be looking to dominate the hosts physically in midfield after naming Jonathan Davies and Ben Te'o in the centres.
Jonny Sexton also returned at fly-half in an all-Irish combination with scrum-half Connor Murray, while England's Owen Farrell will miss the game because of a quad strain, despite originally being named on the bench.
The hulking George North and pacy Anthony Watson will occupy the wings with Leigh Halfpenny named at full-back, a position that might have been taken by Stuart Hogg had the Scot not been ruled out of the tour by injury on Tuesday.
In the pack, England duo George Kruis and Maro Itoje will make up the second row with their international team-mate Jamie George getting the nod at hooker. George packs down alongside Mako Vunipola and Tadhg Furlong.
O'Mahony will lead the team from the blindside of the scrum, with Ireland team-mate Sean O'Brien at openside and Wales' Taulupe Faletau in the No 8 jersey.
"At this stage of the tour it is important to build on the foundations that have been laid in the last few weeks," Gatland said.
"We were obviously disappointed with the loss against the Highlanders and realise that we need to improve in several areas, including our discipline, but we feel that overall we are building well towards the Test matches.
"Every game is a big challenge, which is what we wanted, and this is an experienced Lions team with eight of the starting 15 involved in the last test in Australia in 2013.
"Peter is a proven captain with Munster who never takes a backward step and we believe that those leadership qualities will serve us well on Saturday against a quality and determined Maori All Blacks team."
O'Mahony, who battled for 18 months with chronic knee problems before the tour, impressed against the Crusaders and is now a genuine Test-match option.
"It's a huge honour, obviously to be picked for the Lions at all is a massive honour," said O'Mahony.
"To get the nod from Warren this weekend is hugely special, not just me but for all the clubs, people and family who have put effort into me. It's a huge honour.
"We want to win but first and foremost we need a performance. Whatever comes after that is what comes. We need to be stepping up and guys to stick your hands up."
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 George North, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Jamie George, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 George Kruis, 6 Peter O'Mahony, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Elliot Daly.