Gatland's Welsh Lions unveiled

Thu, 20 Jun 2013 07:38
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Coach Warren Gatland named his first B&I Lions Test team - the starting XV featuring eight new caps and eight Welshman.

Coach Warren Gatland named his first British and Irish Lions Test team - the starting XV featuring eight new caps and eight Welshman.

 The B&I Lions will play the Wallabies in the first of the three-Test series in Brisbane on Saturday.

The team will be captained by Welshman Sam Warburton.

Gatland warned the Wallabies to expect a "physical" encounter, after naming fit-again Wales wing George North among the eight players who will make their B&I Lions Test debut.

Veteran Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll, the sole survivor from the last series between the two countries in 2001, will play his seventh Lions Test.

"After six matches we have arrived at the first Test and have selected our strongest possible side - with only Jamie Roberts, Tommy Bowe and Manu Tuilagi unavailable for selection," Gatland said Thursday.

"The Wallabies at home pose a huge challenge but the Test team contains 20 of the players that played against the Waratahs in what was our best match to date," he added, referring to the 47-17 win in Sydney last weekend.

The powerful North, who strained a hamstring in the win over the Combined Country XV in Newcastle last week, will be marked by former Rugby League star Israel Folau, who was among three new caps named Thursday for the Wallabies.

Joining North in making their debuts behind the scrum will be fullback Leigh Halfpenny, wing Alex Cuthbert, centre Jonathan Davies and flyhalf Johnny Sexton.

Up front, Warburton will command a pack that sees Alex Corbisiero and Tom Youngs join him in debuting for the Lions in a Test match.

Corbisiero makes the team less than two weeks following his arrival as a replacement from the England tour in Argentina after the Lions lost loosehead props Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins to injuries.

O'Driscoll is joined in the side by six other survivors from the series against the Springboks in South Africa four years ago - scrumhalf Mike Phillips, prop Adam Jones, locks Alun Wyn Jones and Paul O'Connell, as well as back row forwards Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip.

All eight replacements are uncapped in Lions Tests and include New Zealand-born Mako Vunipola and Sean Maitland.

Despite suffering their first non-Test defeat in Australia in 42 years, 12-14 to the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday, Gatland said the team was in a positive frame of mind following five wins in their six tour fixtures to date.

"Tuesday was a bit of a blip for us but over the last two Saturdays against the Reds and the Waratahs a lot of the players from this side have been building that momentum," he said.

"We feel very positive where we are, we feel we've got a few hit-outs under our belt which has given us that match-hardened edge that we're looking for.

"With the Australian team not having played for a few weeks and with two or three players having been out injured, we need to really take it to them physically, and with the kind of tempo that they are used to putting on other sides."

The second Test is in Melbourne on June 29 with the final clash in Sydney on July 6.

Lions Manager Andy Irvine said they are now at the "business end" of the tour.

"You can feel the excitement and commitment within the squad now that we are back in Brisbane and the 1st Test is just days away," Irvine said.

"I congratulate all the players who are making their Lions Test debut on Saturday.

"Playing against the Wallabies for the Lions is a major milestone in a player’s career and I am confident they will all uphold the history and tradition of the Lions by giving their all."

British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland.

Date: Saturday, June 22
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Kick-off: 20.05 AEST (11.05 UK & Ireland time; 10.05 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert, Romain Poite (France)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)

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