By John Davidson,
Both Great Britain and New Zealand will be looking to lift their games when they lock horns at Eden Park this Saturday.
The Lions and the Kiwis will go toe-to-toe in the second match of a triple-header, after Fiji face Samoa and before Tonga take on Australia. Both sides are coming off a loss, with New Zealand beaten by the Kangaroos in Wollongong and Great Britain going down to the Tonga Invitational XIII in Hamilton.
Both nations have made unforced changes to try and spark their teams to perform, with the Lions dropping Lachlan Coote and the Kiwis dropping Shaun Johnson.
New Zealand coach Michael Maguire has axed playmaker Johnson and replaced him with Kieran Foran for his 22nd Test, and first appearance in the black jumper, for two years.
“We’ve got pretty, pretty high standards here at the moment and we’re looking for consistency all the time,” Maguire said.
“I’ve had a senior group talk about that since I arrived in the job and they all understand that The change with Kieran coming in after our last performance is well deserved for Kieran.
“I had a really long, strong conversation with (Johnson). I’ve been able to build a strong relationship with Shaun about his game and he understands that too – that consistency is a big part of playing at this level.
“If Shaun goes away and works on his game – he’s an international player.”
Zane Tetevano will start in place of Leeson Ah Mau, who reverts to the bench for the Kiwis, while lock Joe Tapine is back from the bench.
Great Britain boss Wayne Bennett has replaced fullback Coote with bench utility Jonny Lomax while Luke Thompson and Oliver Gildart are both out with injury.
Tom Burgess has been moved from the bench to replace Thompson in the front-row and Jake Connor will start in the centres for Gildart. Warrington duo Daryl Clark and Joe Philbin both join the bench.
Lions coach Danny Ward says attack was Great Britain’s main problem against Tonga but there has been no panic after the loss.
“We made errors at crucial points,” he said.
“We didn’t build pressure on Tonga and they did a fantastic job on us, they kicked us to death, put us in the corner and made us come out of our own end and we didn’t do that to them.
“It’s tough and you lose that energy battle then and it’s hard to attack when all you’re doing is defending on the back foot.
“There are lots of things to fix up, but they’re only small things, so we’re not panicking. Fair play to Tonga, we’re not taking anything away from them, but the boys are buzzing and training well today to fix those things.
“New Zealand have not got some bad options, but we’ve got to fix up what we’re doing,” he said.
“We can’t worry too much about what the Kiwis will bring, they’ve got some fantastic players and we’ll do our homework on them, but at the same time we’ve got to fix up areas like our kicking game and our completion.
“Any international team will give you a tough time if we’re not performing.”
New Zealand: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck; Ken Maumalo, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Joseph Manu, Jamayne Isaako; Kieron Foran, Benji Marshall; Joe Tapine, Kenny Bromwich, Briton Nikora, Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Brandon Smith, Zane Televano. Res: Jahrome Hughes, Corey Harawira-Naera, Leeson Ah Mau, Adam Blair
Great Britain: Jonny Lomax; Jermaine McGillvary, Zak Hardaker, Jake Connor, Ryan Hall; Jackson Hastings, Gareth Widdop; James Graham (c), Elliott Whitehead, John Bateman, Tom Burgess, Josh Hodgson, Chris Hill. Res: Josh Jones, Joe Philbin, Daryl Clark, Alex Walmsley.