Lions head coach Ian McGeechan and tour manager Gerald Davies have named the matchday 22 for Saturday’s opening Test against South Africa in Durban.
Ireland’s Paul O’Connell captains the side from the second row, where he is joined by Wales international Alun-Wyn Jones. Elsewhere up front, previous Lions Test players Gethin Jenkins and Phil Vickery are selected at prop, with Lee Mears packing down between them in the front row. Leicester’s Tom Croft, who missed out on selection for the original 37-man Lions squad back in April, is named at blindside flanker, with Irish duo David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip at openside and No8 respectively.
Mike Phillips and Stephen Jones form a Welsh half-back partnership, with 2005 Lions skipper Brian O’Driscoll selected outside Cardiff Blues star Jamie Roberts in the centres. Ospreys team-mates Lee Byrne and Tommy Bowe start at full back and on the right wing, with Ugo Monye of Harlequins and England winning the race for the left-wing berth.
As for the replacements, Welshmen Matthew Rees and Adam Jones provide front row back up, while Donncha O’Callaghan is the second row option and Martyn Williams covers the back row. Harry Ellis and Ronan O’Gara provide options at halfback and Leinster’s Rob Kearney has recovered from the dead leg he suffered against the Southern Kings to claim the final place in the 22.
Ian McGeechan said: (quote) The Test team has been picked on form following the six provincial matches. There were some very difficult calls to make as the players as a group and individually have done everything that we have asked of them and performed on the field. (end quote)
The Lions who go into the test series unbeaten will be big underdogs, but it is good to see the Management have gone for an adventurous team, rather than just a bludgeon.
Lions vs South Africa, first Test, Saturday June 20.
15. Lee Byrne (Ospreys/Wales)
14. Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland)
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland)
12. Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
11. Ugo Monye (Harlequins/England)
10. Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales)
9. Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)
7. David Wallace (Munster/Ireland)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
5. Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland) Captain
4. Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
3. Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England)
2. Lee Mears (Bath/England)
1. Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
16. Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales)
17. Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
18. Donncha O’Callaghan (Munster/Ireland)
19. Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
20. Harry Ellis (Leicester Tigers/England)
21. Ronan O’Gara (Munster/Ireland)
22. Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland)