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Warren Gatland says his Lions possess the X-factor to unnerve All Blacks

• Lions coach tells players to express themselves on eve of tour opener
•Jared Payne withdraws from replacements’ bench with calf injury

Warren Gatland believes his British & Irish Lions side have the “X-factor” to stun the All Blacks and win a Test series in New Zealand for only the second time in history. The Lions coach is also keen to update local perceptions of northern hemisphere rugby and earn the respect of the public here from the start of the 10-match tour that kicks off on Saturday.

Contrary to the view of many New Zealanders that the Lions are here simply to make up the numbers, Gatland is in upbeat mood on the eve of his squad’s opening fixture against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei despite the withdrawal of replacement Jared Payne on Thursday night owing to a calf injury. “I honestly feel we’ve got some players with some X-factor to match the All Blacks,” he said, suggesting the touring side would be encouraged to play what they see rather than adhere to a rigid plan. “I want them to express themselves, starting straight away. You have to give them the confidence that they can go and do that and maybe create something special.”

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