All the talk is over and we now know who will take part in the first of the three Test series between the British and Irish Lions and the Wallabies. Both sides have been announced, with few surprises but much to look forward to in Brisbane this Saturday.
Captain Sam Warburton leads a side with a great mix of experience and youth, as eight new Test caps will start, with Brian O’Driscoll and Mike Phillips leading from the back. Paul O’Connell, Jamie Heaslip, Tom Croft, Allun Wyn Jones and Adam Jones all played in South Africa in 2009.
“After six matches we have arrived at the 1st Test and have selected our strongest possible side with only Jamie Roberts,Tommy Bowe and Manu Tuilagi unavailable for selection,” said coach Warren Gatland ahead of the Suncorp Stadium clash.
“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. We now have a couple of more days of match preparation to ensure we improve again on that performance.”
The Wallabies have three new Test caps as cross-code star Israel Folau gets his first start, while Brumbies pair Ben Mowen and Christian Leali’ifano are rewarded for consistent performances.
Perhaps the most vital, and talked about component of the Wallaby side is the halfback combination, where James O’Connor and Will Genia reunite, adding to the two Tests they played there in 2011, which resulted in wins over the Barbarians and Wales.
Out wide Wallaby fans will be pleased with the inclusion of dangerous winger Digby Ioane, who has recovered from a knee operation in time for selection. Lock James Horwill, who himself has had injury troubles, will return to captain the side and lead a forward pack that features the likes of star youngster Michael Hooper.
With the brilliant David Pocock and George Smith unavailable due to injury, Hooper is the heir apparent, and with Liam Gill on the bench, the Wallabies have natural talent in abundance to call on, including the outstanding Kurtley Beale, as he makes the cut following some off field troubles.
The Wallabies – 15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali’ifano, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson Reserves: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Pat McCabe, 22 Kurtley Beale
British and Irish Lions – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero. Reserves: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland.