Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Gatland to face dad in Lions tour opener

Bryn Gatland is the only No 10 named in the squad. Photo / Photosport
Bryn Gatland is the only No 10 named in the squad. Photo / Photosport

Clayton McMillan has described his task of selecting the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians squad to play the British and Irish Lions in the first game of the series in June as "a bit of a logistical nightmare".

It can't have been easy picking a player from every Mitre 10 Cup team good enough to warrant selection who wasn't directly involved in a Super Rugby team.

But for coach McMillan, who announced his squad yesterday, it's really a dream come true.

It will be, too, for Bryn Gatland, the only No 10 named in the squad of 19 - four players are to be added - who will get a unique chance to not only face a famous old team but one coached by his dad Warren.

Gatland's selection is likely to catch the attention of British media.

"The fact his dad is going to be sitting in the stand cheering for the other team is probably a bit irrelevant on the day, but certainly in the lead-up, it's going to generate a bit of interest, I'd imagine," said McMillan.

And so it will be for Northlanders Josh Goodhue and Matthew Matich, who will play the biggest match of their lives at Whangarei's Toll Stadium on June 3.

Loose forward Matich was born in Dargaville, studied civil engineering at Auckland University and returned home to work as a development officer for the Northland Rugby Union and play for the Western Sharks club.

He probably spoke for all the players when he said: "It's tough - you don't want to get injured, but you have to keep playing."

Matich, 25, said he was in the physical condition of his life, and the prospect of playing in front of a full house - an estimated 20,000 Lions supporters are coming - plus a television audience of millions, will likely add a spring to his step in the next few weeks.

"I've only played against Mitre 10 Cup players or the odd All Black in a non-serious game," Matich said. "It's huge."

Coach Warren Gatland. Photo / File
Coach Warren Gatland. Photo / File

Lock Goodhue, 21, who is in the Blues wider training squad, said his father went to the Lions match against North Auckland in Whangarei in 1993, a 30-17 victory to the visitors in what was their first match of the series. "He said it was just packed out," said Goodhue, who plays for the Kamo club. "The whole family is excited, so it's pretty special."

Goodhue's twin brother Jack plays for the Crusaders and could also get the opportunity to play the Lions.

Former All Blacks wing Bryan Williams was present at the naming of the squad at the Barbarians clubrooms at Eden Park.

He played for the All Blacks against the Lions in 1971 (a series loss) and 1977 (a series win) and said the key for the mainly young squad was to enjoy the occasion while recognising it will probably be the biggest game of their lives.

"They've got an opportunity to really stake a claim," he said. "Some careers are born out of these situations and before you know it, they're a Super player and then they're in the All Blacks."

McMillan, the current Bay of Plenty coach and a former loose forward at the province, plans to. The New Zealand Provincial Baabaas will assemble in Auckland one week before the June 3 fixture and then prepare for their places in history, and McMillan will play a big part after missing out 12 years ago.

"Ironically I left Bay of Plenty when the Lions last toured," he said. "The guy who filled my shoes was Colin Bourke, who was probably one of the most skilled players to have pulled on the jersey, so while I might have been disappointed, probably the rest of the province was quite happy."

New Zealand Provincial Barbarians team to play the Lions in Whangarei on June 3 (four to be added) - Forwards: Aiden Ross (Bay of Plenty), Tolu Fahamokioa (Wellington), Sam Anderson-Heather (Otago), Epalahame Faiva (Waikato), Marcel Renata (Auckland), Quinten Strange (Tasman), Joshua Goodhue (Northland), Heiden Bedwell-Curtis (Manawatu), Mitchell Brown (Taranaki), Matthew Matich (Northland), Peter Rowe (Wanganui).

Backs: Jonathan Taumateine (Counties Manukau), Jack Stratton (Canterbury), Bryn Gatland (North Harbour), Jonathan Fa'auli (Taranaki), Jonah Lowe (Hawke's Bay), Sevuloni Reece (Waikato), Luteru Laulala (Counties Manukau), Junior Ngaluafe (Southland).

- NZ Herald

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