Preview: B&I Lions v NZ Provincial Barbarians
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The British & Irish Lions start their tour of New Zealand in the country's most northerly town, Whangarei.
It is the shortest such tour to New Zealand ever - just 10 matches.
In each of the five tours from 1930 to 1977, the Lions played over 20 matches.
But now that travelling is easier they have become steadily shorter - 18 in 1983, 13 in 1993, 11 in 2005 and now 10.
Of course, the start of the tour will attract great attention when the two pick-up teams will be playing their first-ever matches as a team.
The New Zealand provincial Barbarians are chosen from 14 provinces, none of which will be playing the Lions.
The Lions, chosen from four countries, also go on to play the Maori, the five Super Rugby franchises and three Tests.
Both teams will be playing together for the first time, but the Lions will have 23 universally known international players, whereas the Provincial Barbarians will be largely unknown.
They have some who have played for New Zealand age-group teams and some, like Dwayne Sweeney, Josh Goodhue, Lachlan Boshier and James Tucker, who have Super Rugby experience.
Two players will know the Toll Stadium, previously known as Okara Park, well. Josh Goodhue and Matt Matich of the Barbarians.
Unfortunately Jared Payne of the Lions, a New Zealander who captained Northlands for four seasons before heading to Ulster and playing for the province and for Ireland, was a late withdrawal from the match.
Payne, who returned to his homeland as an invader, has been ruled out due to a calf strain. Payne's place on the replacements bench has been taken by Wasps and England's Elliot Daly.
This is the eighth time the Lions will have played in Whangarei. They have in the past played against and beaten North Auckland, the name changed to Northland in 1994. All Blacks have come from there - Ian Jones, the three Goings and Rene Ranger.
Forget history, it is hard to see the Barbarians causing real problems for the Lions.
Certainly they will give their best, as New Zealand teams always do. They will probably hope to run the ball away from the big Lions' pack but it seems unlikely that they will get enough possession to have any success. They are likely to start eagerly, tackling with a will till their sore bodies tire.
It may not be the best outing to prepare the Lions for the Blues and on to the Maori, the other four franchises and the three Tests.
Players to Watch
For the Barbarians: One would want to watch Lachlan Boshier, a fine loose forward and then see how Bryn Gatland does against his Dad's team.
For the Lions: One will want to watch and assess them as a team and as individuals, but perhaps especially clever Jonny Sexton, and his centres and in the pack robust Ross Moriarty, the son and the nephew of tough Welsh forwards.
Head to Head: Lachlan Boshier of the Barbarians versus the Lions' captain, Sam Warburton.
Previous B&I Lions Matches in Whangarei (In all of these matches their opponents were North Auckland)
1938: B&I Lions won 38-5
1950: B&I Lions won 8-6
1966: B&I Lions won 6-3
1971: B&I Lions won 11-5
1977: B&I Lions won 18-7
1983: B&I Lions won 21-12
1993: B&I Lions won 30-17
Prediction: The British and Irish Lions to win by more than 30 points.
New Zealand Provincial Barbarians: 15 Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau), 14 Sam Vaka (Counties Manukau), 13 Inga Finau (Canterbury, 12 Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), 11 Sevu Reece (Waikato), 10 Bryn Gatland (North Harbour), 9 Jack Stratton (Canterbury, 8 Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury, 7 Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), 6 James Tucker (Waikato), 5 Keepa Mewett (Bay of Plenty), 4 Josh Goodhue (Northland), 3 Oliver Jager (Canterbury, 2 Sam Anderson-Heather (Otago) (captain), 1 Aidan Ross (Bay of Plenty).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio (Tasman), 17 Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington), 18 Marcel Renata (Auckland), 19 Matt Matich (Northland), 20 Peter Rowe (Wanganui), 21 Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty), 22 Jonah Lowe (Hawke's Bay), 23 Junior Ngaluafe (Southland).
British & Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Rory Best, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 George Kruis, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Elliot Daly.
Date: Saturday, 3 June 2017
Venue: Toll Stadium (Okara Park), Whangarei
Kick-off: 19.35 (08.35 UK & Ireland time; 07.35 GMT)
Expected weather: Partly cloudy with a high of 29°C and a low of 9°C
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
By Paul Dobson