AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- After a trip south to Queenstown, a couple of bungy jumps later, a quick blast on a jet boat, and one disciplinary quashed, Warren Gatland goes with the same matchday squad that faced the All Blacks last Saturday for the series-defining game in Auckland this weekend.
It is a rare thing for a Lions coach to stick with exactly the same matchday squad from one Test to another, especially with the series locked at one apiece. In 2013 Gatland made arguably the biggest selection call of his career ahead of their third meeting with the Wallabies when he dropped Brian O'Driscoll. Four years previous, the Lions, at that stage 2-0 down, made a host of changes as they dealt with an ever-growing injury list. In 2005 on this very land, Sir Clive Woodward again made changes as they sought to restore some pride having been handed their fortune by a Dan Carter masterclass.
But this lot are seemingly comfortable in their skin. No surprises, no shocks, Gatland has gone with continuity. It shows a trust in the system. Graham Rowntree alluded to potential changes when he spoke in the aftermath of their second Test win. Their discipline nearly killed them in Wellington, but despite some players falling on the wrong side of the referee's arm, no one loses their place because of falling on the wrong side of the law.
You imagine Rowntree had a big say in having continuity in the front-row. Mako Vunipola could have been benched after his ill-discipline in Wellington, but he remains at loose-head. The other two deserve to keep their places after solid performances in the 'Cake Tin'. Retaining Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje - the Lions' fans cult hero - is a no-brainer in the second-row. They dovetailed brilliantly against the All Blacks, with Jones putting in an all-court showing and Itoje causing all sorts of mischief.
In the back-row the citing Gods mean Gatland could keep Sean O'Brien at openside, after he had his citing thrown out after connecting with Waiseke Naholo. The All Blacks were miffed, to say the least, by this decision. Sam Warburton, the captain, and Taulupe Faletau complete the trio.
The 9,10,12 combination worked effectively against the All Blacks so Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell remain linked while Jonathan Davies is the glue at outside centre. Liam Williams, an injury doubt, starts at fullback with Elliot Daly and Anthony Watson on the flanks.
It is remarkable that in a tour where everything was hammered into fast-forward due to their limited time together before flying out, the constraints on selection due to the placing of the domestic finals and the controversial call ups that we have calm before the biggest game of this whole extravaganza. The Lions have taken themselves off to Queenstown this week to rest and regroup, but that Gatland has made no changes whatsoever, suggests they are comfortable in their own skin.
They know the size of the task facing them on Saturday. They are expecting a backlash, Gatland fully knows that, and the All Blacks have shaken things up with their three changes. Their backs, who under-clubbed in the second Test, will be nursing wounded pride. They will have points to prove on a ground the All Blacks have not lost on since 1994.
Much is at stake. The All Blacks will know what's coming, there will be limited intrigue around this 23 as we've already seen it at play, but the Lions are settled and as Gatland puts it, this is the team charged with making history.