Gatland defends below-par Sexton

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland was confident that Johnny Sexton would bounce back after his lacklustre performance in game one of the 2017 tour.

Sexton was brought off for Owen Farrell early in the second half, with the England number ten noticeably settling the Lions down as they worked hard for a 13-7 win over the Provincial Barbarians.

Gatland rejected any suggestion that Sexton's performance had done his Test chances any harm, with the first game still some time away on June 24.

"I think that's pretty unfair in making an assessment like that," Gatland told the Press Association.

"These guys arrived on Wednesday and are still recovering from travel, they haven't got into regular sleep patterns yet. We knew it would be difficult in terms of that.

"Owen Farrell has a big-match temperament, there's no doubt.

"I would have been happier of course if he'd knocked over that one he put against the post; that might have given us an easier last 10 minutes.

"But he's played some pretty good rugby in the last 18 months, and he's one of the standout performers in northern hemisphere rugby anyway."

Gatland also clarified how many changes he plans to make to for next Wednesday's game with the Blues back in Auckland.

"Fifteen. The plan is everyone gets a start in the first three games, and I've been continually saying that."

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