He is the most capped player in rugby union history, a World Cup victor on two occasions and arguably the best open-side flanker there has ever been.
Gatland said he was "excited and bit apprehensive" about the much-anticipated tour kicking off in the first visit since 2005 by the composite team of players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
"We've got footage available to us of all the players picked in the squad, but it's hard to know what we'll come up against".More news: Ariana Grande Announces Benefit Concert for Manchester Victims
"We have named a side that showcases a strong combination of experience and youth and we are really looking forward to Saturday".
Consequently the opening match against players from New Zealand's semi-professional provincial competition will be eagerly watched as a sign of what to expect from the touring party.
The Lions head coach believes that some of his less heralded players could surprise the Kiwis in the coming weeks. "Joe Schmidt, Vern Cotter and Eddie Jones have done a phenomenal job of changing the attitude of the players from where they were 12 months ago".
"We know the Lions have a massively experienced and powerful side", McMillan said.
"Warren won the last Test series with the Lions, that's a record that stands up, and that's what he's measured on".
"That was great. As soon as we hit the ground we got welcomed".
"The Lions must go for the heart of the All Blacks and target Barrett", he told The Sun.More news: The NBA's biggest stars share the spotlight with their brothers
But Clermont-bound half-back Laidlaw offered a staunch defence of Gatland's credentials in response, citing the 2013 series win in Australia as immediate evidence of the Wales boss' Lions prowess.
"He's a very detailed coach".
What makes the Lions tour so compelling? "This is going towards a range of leveraging opportunities including a school curriculum programme and Rugby 2017 Festival which will help host cities showcase New Zealand culture". I've got no doubt he'd want a good performance from himself on Saturday.
"These games are important to win, you get a good feeling, but we've got to realise that the next three, four weeks are big learning weeks for us".
The tour is also expected to deliver a handsome boost to the local economy and New Zealand Rugby's coffers. Among the replacements, Jared Payne was ruled out last night with a calf injury and replaced by Elliot Daly.
"It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity I've been given".More news: Malaysia Airlines flight returns to Melbourne after passenger tries to enter cockpit