1 Jul 2017

'Do or die' for the Lions in Wellington

11:12 am on 1 July 2017

British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton says tonight's second test is the "biggest challenge" of his career. It may also be one of the most significant games in Lions history.

Wales captain Sam Warburton.

Sam Warburton, of Wales, will captain the Lions during tonight's "do or die" test. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Having lost last week's first test in Auckland, this is - as defence coach Andy Farrell says - "do or die" for the tourists.

A heavy defeat for the Lions could call into question the very future of the concept, with English clubs dissatisfied at the current structure.

Conversely, a win in Wellington would set up a thrilling series decider, and would protect the brand for many years to come.

Warburton said: "It's definitely the biggest challenge of my career and I feel really confident of doing a good job and delivering a game.

"I don't understand the politics and the finances of it, but from the playing point of view it has been the absolute pinnacle of my career, and every career highlight I have had has been in a Lions shirt.

"Without sounding too strong, I would be gutted, devastated, if the Lions was ever lost. I think it's absolutely amazing and the players all think the same.

"In my house, I've only got one jersey hanging up on the wall and it's my Lions jersey. That is how much I think of the Lions.

Head coach Warren Gatland is not adverse to making bold selections on Lions tours, and he has again gambled for Saturday's game.

But his side will need to produce one of the great Lions performances to salvage the series, and potentially the future of the concept too.

New Zealand won a bruising first test 30-15, dominating the collisions and prompting Gatland to challenge his players to increase their physicality on Saturday.

Israel Dagg said he had been unable to walk properly for two days after last week's match, and All Blacks captain Kieran Read is expecting the second test to be even tougher.

"I can't wait for that battle. We've got to expect that," Read said. "If anything it's going to be more physical.

"We can't just be waiting for what they are going to bring. We've got to go out there and take it for ourselves and try and lead with our game."