B&I Lions go Welsh in decider
There will be no fairytale ending to a glittering B&I Lions career for Brian O'Driscoll after the Irish legend was ruthlessly axed from the deciding third Test.
There will be no fairytale ending to a glittering British and Irish Lions career for Brian O'Driscoll after the Irish legend was ruthlessly axed from the deciding third Test against the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Leinster centre was hoping to crown his fourth Lions tour with a first series win in 16 years but instead of picking up his 134th Test cap he will have to be content with cheering from the sidelines.
O'Driscoll, sole survivor from the tour against the Wallabies in 2001, took his Lions Test tally to eight in the opening two games this year.
The 2005 captain, he has yet to win a series with the Lions and this is the first time he has been dropped.
Alun Wyn Jones will be captain for the first time and one of a record-equalling 10 Welsh players in the starting line-up, with an 11th on the bench. The last time Wales had 10 men in a Lions line-up was the first Test against Australia in Brisbane in 1950, which the Lions won 19-6.
Head coach Warren Gatland made five changes to a winning side between the first and second Tests and now he has made a further six changes after losing 16-15 in Melbourne last weekend.
Out of the second Test starting XV go O'Driscoll, scrumhalf Ben Youngs, his brother and hooker Tom Youngs, prop Mako Vunipola, No.8 Jamie Heaslip and the injured skipper Sam Warburton.
In come the fit-again trio of centre Jamie Roberts, scrumhalf Mike Phillips and prop Alex Corbisiero. Wales No.8 Toby Faletau will win his first Lions cap in a back row that sees Sean O'Brien move off the bench to claim Warburton's No 7 shirt.
England front row forwards Vunipola and Tom Youngs drop to the bench where they are joined by newcomers Richie Gray, Justin Tipuric and Manu Tuilagi. The experienced Tom Croft and first Test try-scorer Alex Cuthbert lose their places on the bench from last week.
"It all comes down to Saturday - the winner takes all. We know we can leave nothing in the tank and that only a complete performance will get us across the line," said Gatland.
"Picking this team was not easy and ultimately, with several players available after recovering from injury, the head overruled the heart in many selection decisions.
"Brian O'Driscoll is a great player and has had a wonderful career but for the final Test in Sydney we just felt Jamie Roberts's presence offered us something more."
Gatland was the first coach to pick O'Driscoll for an international match way back in 1999 and he has now become the first one to drop him 14 years later.
"We told him this [Wednesday] morning and he was obviously disappointed, as anyone would be. But he appreciated the fact that he was spoken to before the announcement," said the coach.
"It's the first time that any coach has had that decision with him in 15 years of rugby. It's not easy for that to be the first time, but he's still going to be very important for us for the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership.
"It wasn't about leadership - it was about picking what we felt was the best team."
"Alun Wyn gets his opportunity on Saturday. He leads from the front and he's been outstanding in the lead up games and was one of the first names on the sheet when he picked the team for the first two Tests.
"Mike Phillips and Alex Corbisiero were 1st Test selections and would probably have played in the 2nd Test if not for injury. Richard Hibbard, Toby Faletau and Sean O'Brien have also earned their starting places."
British & Irish Lions Tour Manager Andy Irvine said: "It has been a great tour on and off the field.
"It is amazing that the last three series between the Lions and the Wallabies have gone down to the last Test. In 1989 the Lions triumphed, in 2001 it was the Wallabies who won the series and now in 2013 we go to ANZ Stadium in Sydney with the series and the Tom Richards Trophy up for grabs.
"There is nothing between these two teams, with the last two Tests being decided in the dying moments. The Test is a sell out and the whole rugby world is looking forward to the match with great anticipation."
Head Coach Warren Gatland added: "It has been a challenging tour and we have had our fair share of injuries but we always knew that would be the case."
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Date: Saturday July 6
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 20.00 AEST (10.00 GMT; 11.00 UK & Ireland time)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Craig Joubert (South Africa)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)