It will be a very special occasion on Saturday night at Toll Stadium – and the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians have named a squad of some of the best grassroots players going round.
Flying Waikato winger Sevu Reece and clutch championship-winning kicker Bryn Gatland are two of the big names to feature in the Barbarians side to take on the British and Irish Lions. The squad is selected from two of New Zealand’s major provincial competitions – the Mitre 10 Cup and the Heartland Championship. It features players from a combined totaol of 14 provincial unions across New Zealand rugby.
A Long Road For Sam Anderson-Heather To Whangarei
For Barbarians captain Sam Anderson-Heather; it has been a journey that’s seen the 29-year old hooker succeed at almost every level.
HUGE Congrats to Sam Anderson-Heather who has been named Captain of the NZ provincial Barbarians for their match against @lionsofficial pic.twitter.com/DznRBzlkX6
— Otago Rugby (@OtagoRugbyTeam) May 29, 2017
Just this put it context; Anderson-Heather was playing club rugby in Dunedin in between his job as a maintenence engineer a fortnight ago. This Saturday; he captains the Barbarians and goes up against the British and Irish Lions. That’s a ‘fair bit of difference’ in terms of skill set.
New Zealand Provincial Barbarians Squad
1. Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty)
2. Sam Anderson-Heather – captain (Otago)
3. Oliver Jager (Canterbury)
4. Josh Goodhue (Northland)
5. Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty)
6. James Tucker (Waikato)
7. Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki)
8. Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury)
9. Jack Stratton (Canterbury)
10. Bryn Gatland (North Harbour)
11. Sevu Reece (Waikato)
12. Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato)
13. Inga Finau (Canterbury)
14. Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau)
15. Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau)
16. Andrew Makalio (Tasman)
17. Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington)
18. Marcel Renata (Auckland)
19. Matt Matich (Northland)
20. Peter Rowe – vice captain (Wanganui)
21. Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty)
22. Jonah Lowe (Hawke’s Bay)
23. Junior Ngaluafe (Southland)
A Special Moment For The Gatland Family
For Barbarians first-five Bryn Gatland, the match is extra special. The British and Irish Lions are coached by his father, Warren Gatland. It continues a long and storied history for the Gatland family who are well respected, not only in New Zealand, but especially in the Waikato.
At just 22-years of age; young Bryn Gatland has already represented New Zealand at age-group level internationally. The first-five has also had three seasons of Mitre 10 Cup rugby under his belt, two with Waikato followed by a successful first run with North Harbour in which he kicked the championship-winning drop goal.
On Wednesday, Lions coach Warren Gatland spoke of what it would be like coaching against his own son.
“I haven’t spoken to him as much as I usually would this past couple of weeks. All I asked him for was his play calls and moves, naturally he said no. We had a bit of a joke about that.”
Impressive Forward Pack Selected In First Lions Squad
Warren Gatland named a moderate British and Irish Lions squad selection to take on the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, at Toll Stadium in Whangarei.
Johnny Sexton won the battle to start at the crucial spot of first five. His stiffest competition, Owen Farrell, was named on the bench and will either come on to replace Sexton early in the second half, or they will pair in the midfield.
?Your team to face the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in our opening Tour match is…..#LionsNZ2017 #AllForOne https://t.co/97nDJFvANJ pic.twitter.com/bejXoYQNd9
— British&Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) May 31, 2017
League convert Ben Te’o and Scottish halfback Greig Laidlaw were the other two names of note in the backs.
Lions captain Sam Warburton got his wish to play in the first tour match and will start in his traditional role of flanker. In what is a strong Lions forward pack – Toby Falatau, Alun Wyn Jones, Rory Best, and Joe Marler all get starting roles first up.
Lions Squad to Clash Against New Zealand Provincial Barbarians
Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’o, Tommy Seymour, Jonathan Sexton, Greig Laidlaw, Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Ross Moriarty, Iain Henderson, Alun Wyn Jones, Kyle Sinckler, Rory Best, Joe Marler.
Reserves: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Tadhg Furlong, George Kruis, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Owen Farrell, Jared Payne.
Kick-off is at 7:35pm, local NZ time.
“Main photo credit”