Warren Gatland’s five big calls for the Lions’ first Test against All Blacks | Gerard Meagher

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The head coach is rolling the dice with key personnel decisions, but starting Leigh Halfpenny and Maro Itoje on the bench are gambles that may backfire

Considering the form in which he finished the season – not to mention how he performed in New Zealand last summer – Liam Williams’s selection is hardly a huge surprise but it still came somewhat out of the blue seeing as he played all 80 minutes against the Chiefs. He has a running threat not posed by Leigh Halfpenny but still, the 2013 player of the series can count himself unlucky. Halfpenny has been rock solid so far – even if Gatland has repeatedly said he needs more than that from his back three to beat New Zealand – but perhaps most significantly he has been flawless from the tee. Owen Farrell has been successful with five of his eight kicks and while Elliot Daly can take the long ones dropping Halfpenny is a gamble from Gatland, especially considering the fly‑half’s recent injury scare.

Related: Warren Gatland opts for form not reputation in first Test against All Blacks

Related: How defence expert Dave Ellis switched sides to become All Blacks’ Lion tamer | Gerard Meagher

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