British & Irish Lions
Warburton out, 17 new Lions
Thu, 30 May 2013 06:55
We have a hard core of experience
Ireland lock Paul O'Connell will return to captain the British and Irish Lions against the Barbarians, after Sam Warburton was ruled out of the tour opener with injury.
O'Connell, who skippered the composite team to their 1-2 defeat against South Africa four years ago, leads a greenhorn matchday squad featuring no fewer than 17 new Lions to play at Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday.
He replaces Wales' Warburton, 24, the nominated team captain who has been forced to sit out the Lions' first ever game in Asia after taking a knock to his knee during training.
The injury is not thought to be serious.
Scotland's Stuart Hogg, the squad's youngest player at 20, gets his first chance in a Lions shirt after being named at fullback, while Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips will operate alongside England flyhalf Owen Farrell.
Welsh internationals Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies are paired in the centres while Wales' Alex Cuthbert and Scotland's Sean Maitland, who was born in New Zealand, will operate on the wings.
Wales teammates Adam Jones and Richard Hibbard will join with England prop Mako Vunipola, who was also born in New Zealand, in the front row with O'Connell and Scotland's Richie Gray completing the tight five.
Toby Faletau, Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate will form an all-Wales back row in a starting team featuring nine players from the reigning Six Nations champions.
"This is the important first match of a 10-match tour and the players are eager to get the tour off on the right note," said Lions tour manager Andy Irvine.
"Training has gone very well and it is exciting to see 11 players making their run-on debuts for the Lions, including the tour's youngest player Stuart Hogg."
All three Scottish tourists are included, plus 11 Welshman, five Irishmen and four Englishmen.
The six former Lions in the squad are Adam Jones, Mike Phillips, Jamie Roberts, Alun Wyn Jones, Jamie Heaslip and O'Connell.
Head coach Warren Gatland said he was "really excited" by the first selection of the tour.
"Naturally it comprises largely those players not involved in last weekend's Premiership and Pro12 finals and we have a lot of players making their debuts for the Lions," Gatland said.
"At the same time we have a hard core of experience with the six former Lions sharing 430 caps between them and 19 Lions Tests.
"There are also some proven combinations such as the Welsh centre pairing and back row. Some of the boys who played last weekend are on the bench as cover and generally everyone in the camp is raring to go."
After playing the Barbarians, the Lions will begin a month-long tour of Australia where they are targeting their first Test series victory in 16 years.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Paul O'Connell (captain), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 George North.
Date: Saturday, June 1
Venue: Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong
Kick-off: 19.30 (12.30 UK & Ireland time, 11.30 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Angus Gardner (Australia)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)
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