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Warburton to lead the Lions in crucial third Test decider against New Zealand

Cardiff Blues captain Sam Warburton will lead the British & Irish Lions out once again as Warren Gatland names an unchanged side for the titanic Test decider against New Zealand.

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton retains his place after helping reinvigorate the Lions to a famous 24-21 victory in Wellington last weekend.

Conor Murray, of Munster, went over the whitewash during the heroic success last Saturday and will hope to help the Lions win a Test Series in New Zealand for the first time since 1971.

TEAM NEWS

Gatland’s starting XV will once more be made up of eight Guinness PRO12 players as the Lions look to make history at Eden Park by being the first to beat New Zealand there for 23 years.

In the backline Leinster’s Sexton starts at fly-half alongside Murray while Owen Farrell slides to inside centre and is joined by Scarlets Jonathan Davies in the midfield.

Gatland has lined-up Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly and Liam Williams in his back three once more after impressing in both Tests.

O’Brien will start once more in the back row alongside Warburton who is joined by Welsh compatriot Taulupe Faletau.

Ospreys’ Alun Wyn Jones makes his ninth successive Lions Test appearance and is paired with Maro Itoje. Leinsterman Tadhg Furlong remains in the front row.

Scarlets Ken Owens, Leinster’s Jack McGrath, Munsterman CJ Stander and Ospreys Rhys Webb all feature on the bench for the Lions.

WHAT THEY’VE BEEN SAYING

Captain Sam Warburton on how much winning the series would mean to him:

“It is definitely the biggest challenge we have had in all of our careers including previous Lions tours, World Cups, Six Nations and all the big games in Europe the lads have been involved in.

“It’s a massive, massive team effort, and so if we win it, it definitely will be up there as the pinnacle of our careers.”

Jonathan Sexton on being picked once again to face the All Blacks:

“To get picked again for another Test is great for everyone involved and now it is all about gearing up to try and bring our best performance of the Tour so far – and we feel that is what we are going to need if we are going to get the win.

“We will have learned a bit from last week and we can take it up a level, we feel we need to go up another level to beat them at Eden Park, that is the bottom line and a great challenge for us to try and get better again, and if we do it will be pretty special.”

OPPONENTS

Ngani Laumape will fill the void left by Sonny Bill Williams at inside centre after he was given a four week ban for a head-high challenge on Anthony Watson last Saturday.

And after the shock defeat last weekend, Steven Hansen has shuffled the pack as he hands Jordie Barrett his first start for the All Blacks at full-back and will play with his older brother Beauden, who starts at fly-half.

Israel Dagg will shift to the right wing with Julian Savea returning on the left with captain and Kieran Read will win his 100th cap at number eight.

The pack remains the same for a third Test running, with the four Crusaders of Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody and Sam Whitelock joined by Brodie Retallick in the tight five.

HEAD TO HEAD – Sean O’Brien v Jerome Kaino

Kaino was the man sacrificed in the second Test following Sonny Bill Williams red card for the high challenge on Watson.

The veteran blindside flanker will be looking to have a far greater impact on proceedings at Eden Park and protect New Zealand’s proud record in Auckland.

He’ll be facing up against Leinsterman O’Brien who has been cleared of citing following a decision on July 2.

O’Brien was colossal at the rain soaked Cake Tin, delivering forceful clear-outs, carries and tackles as he proved an immovable pillar in the lead-up to Faletau’s try.

KEY STAT

The British and Irish Lions have only won two series deciders in their history and they both came against Australia, in 1989 and 2013 respectfully.

The last series decider the tourists faced in New Zealand was in 1993 where they were defeated 30-13 at Eden Park.

WHERE IS IT BEING PLAYED?

The Lions have already sampled Eden Park, losing to the Blues and the All Blacks on this tour.

The home of New Zealand rugby was founded in 1900 and is the country’s largest and most iconic ground.

The first Lions Test in Auckland was in 1908 at Potter’s Park, and 22 years later the men in red made their Eden Park bow.

The stadium has hosted several large events, including the 1992 Cricket World Cup and 2011 Rugby World Cup final – where New Zealand edged past France to claim the title.

REFEREE

Roman Poite will be the man in the middle of the British and Irish Lions’ third Test against New Zealand.

The Frenchman refereed the final game of the tour to Australia in 2013 when a 41-16 victory over the Wallabies sealed a 2-1 series win.

He has also refereed one of the Lions match this Tour, taking charge for the warm-up game against the Hurricanes earlier in the current tour, which ended in a thrilling 31-31 draw.