Man-of-the-moment Bryn Gatland will, fitness permitting, run on to Whangarei's Toll Stadium with the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions in early June.

It will be an historic moment given the first-five's father, Warren, a former All Blacks hooker, will be coaching the opposition.

Given his assured performance in his Super Rugby debut for the Blues against the Hurricanes at Eden Park, when he replaced Piers Francis for the final 29 minutes, could he also play for Tana Umaga's team against the Lions?

It's possible, but unlikely for two reasons.


One, the Blues play the Lions at Eden Park on June 7, four days after the Barbarians match, so a bench role is probably the best Gatland, 21, could hope for. Second, he is with the squad only as injury cover because of Ihaia West's ankle injury.

West, who has missed the past two matches, is likely to be available for the Lions match. Given Francis' ordinary form in the 28-24 defeat to the Hurricanes, it remains to be seen who will start in what for many Blues players will be a highlight of their rugby careers.

Complicating things further for Gatland is the fact that the Blues play the Reds in Apia on June 2, a day before the Barbarians v Lions match. He won't play in the match at Apia Park and, if Francis and West are fit, it's hard to see Umaga going past them.

Meanwhile, Gatland senior will name his squad of 37 players tomorrow, and there will be a fair bit of interest in this part of the world in whether Rotorua-born hooker Dylan Hartley makes it.

At this late stage the signs do not look promising. The 31-year-old, a starter in the No2 jersey for England coach Eddie Jones during the Six Nations, brings a hard edge but it's one that comes with baggage in the form of yellow and red cards and suspensions. At the start of the season a six-week ban for a swinging arm tackle left him playing catch-up with England but Jones selected him regardless.

Gatland might not want to take that risk. England's back-up Jamie George impressed during that tournament, won by England, and Ireland's Rory Best is a standout in the position and a good candidate for Lions captain.

Which brings us to Sam Warburton, the flanker tipped by many in the British press to be given the honour of leading the Lions in the tests, and one who has not had a happy time of it in New Zealand, at least on the pitch.

Warburton effectively cost Wales their World Cup semifinal against France at Eden Park in 2011 when he was sent off for a dangerous tackle in the first half, and captained the team in all three losses to the All Blacks in New Zealand last year.

The flipside to that is he is used to touring New Zealand and will know exactly the extent of the challenge his squad face.