Brian O’Driscoll left out of final Lions test in Australia
Irish centre fails to make the bench with Jamie Roberts returning from injury
The net effect is that there ten Welshmen in the starting line-up, equalling the record from the Red Dragonhood in a starting Lions test team dating back to the first test here in 1950. (The all-time record is 12 Englishmen, back in the 19th century).
Whereas the Wallabies have been comparatively settled, making just two changes to their starting line-up for the second test and not expected to make more than one more for the third (with George Smith heavily touted to start) pending their announcement later today, the Lions have made six changes in addition to the five for the second test.
“We’ve been together for a few weeks now,” said Gatland. “There were a few injuries last week, we were forced to make a few changes through injury. There’s been a lot of competition within the squad, past selections have been tough with tight calls. The changes we have made, we think are going to strengthen the team for this Saturday.”
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As regards promoting Faletau ahead of Heaslip, Gatland there was “a little bit of” freshening up in mind. “Toby’s been unlucky, he’s played well on tour. It was a tight call in the first few games and he gets an opportunity to come in on Saturday. It’s going to be another tough, physical encounter, as it was in Melbourne last week.”
On their choice of Alun Wyn Jones as captain, the Lions head coach said: “He leads from the front. 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 Test, the first two Tests. He’ll go and lead by example. There’s a little bit of pressure taken off him with the fact that Geoff Parling will be calling the lineout, you’ve got leaders in other positions as well, he’ll just be an important part of that engine room that needs to fire for us on Saturday, particularly at tight five and Alun Wyn’s a big part of that.”
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales) 14. Tommy Bowe (Ulster/Ireland) 13. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales) 12. Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales) 11. George North (Scarlets/Wales) 10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland) 9. Mike Phillips (Bayonne/Wales) 1. Alex Corbisiero (London Irish/England) 2. Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales) 3. Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales) 4. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales) (Captain) 5. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England) 6. Dan Lydiate (Dragons/Wales) 7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland) 8. Tangaki Taulupe Faletau (Dragons/Wales)
16. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England) 17. Makovina Vunipola (Saracens/England) 18. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England) 19. Richie Gray (Scotland) 20. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/Wales) 21. Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland) 22. Owen Farrell (Saracens/England) 23. Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers/England)