Lions look to make statement

British and Irish Lions No 8 Taulupe Faletau says the team to take on the NZ Barbarians on Saturday are looking to set the tone for the tour.

Lions coach Warren Gatland has named a strong team for the tour opener in Whangarei, which includes Sam Warburton, Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and Johnny Sexton.

It will be an opportunity to get over the long flight down under for the players and get match sharp for what lies ahead.

But it's also a chance for the Lions to show that they mean business throughout their six weeks in New Zealand.

"With this squad, we believe we've got a good team that's capable of winning over here, whether it's the warm up games or the series we believe that," Faletau said.

"Each game is important and we want to get a good performance in and it's good preparation for the test matches towards the end.

"New Zealand is a rugby crazy country," he added. 

"Maybe you could say it will be an easy game, but I doubt that it will feel like that. 

"It will be a tough game and the boys are aiming to get a performance that we're pleased with."

However, the Welsh international knows that for the players in the Barbarians team on Saturday it will be the biggest game of their lives.

"This is their chance to prove themselves and this is our chance to put a foot down towards the end of the tour," he said.

"Each game is going to be tough and we've got to have a crack and enjoy it."

This will be Faletau's second Lions tour, having been part of the team that defeated Australia 2-1 four years ago.

The 26-year-old has also played in two World Cups and picked up 66 test caps for Wales. So where does a Lions tour to New Zealand rank for him?

"I can't answer that until the end of the series," he said. 

"Obviously the idea of it is a huge challenge and everyone would want to do it, but if it is an unsuccessful tour then it doesn't really matter does it?

"But being here, excited, I can't wait to have a crack at it."

This is the second Lions tour captained by Faletau's compatriot Warburton.

Faletau says Warburton has set high standards for this tour and he expects the rest of the squad to think likewise.

"With his expectations, he puts that onto the team and it is everyone's expectations to come over here and do a good job," he said.

"That's what he believes in and he tries to get the boys rallying around that. 

"He doesn't talk maybe as much as someone else would, but he's one of those that leads by example on the pitch."

Players in the Lions squad are put into various committees for the Tour, to organise things like music, fines, entertainment, or in Faletau's case, who the players share a room with each night.

The players change around during the tour, but Faletau says he's put a lot of thought into it.

"We try to mix the countries," he said. 

"But we've tried to keep the forwards with the forwards and the backs with the backs, because we've had a lot of complaints from the backs that the forwards snore."


Photo: Getty Images Taulupe Faletau is one of the players who'll get an easy run out for the Lions