Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts team up again at centre for the British and Irish Lions against the Sharks in Durban on Wednesday. The players retained from Saturdays narrow win are; Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Luke Fitzgerald and skipper Paul O’Connell.
O’Connell will pack down with his third different partner in the second row, lining up alongside Wales’ Alun Wyn Jones. Martyn Williams is the only member of the squad unavailable through a shoulder problem which is hoped will be right for the weekend.
England centre Riki Flutey has been included on the bench after recovering from a knee injury which almost forced him off the tour. The Lions are also trying new starting combinations in the half-backs, where Mike Phillips will link up with Ronan O’Gara, and in the front row, with Lee Mears hooking between Welsh props Adam Jones and Gethin Jenkins.
Coach Ian McGeechan said; (quote) The next two matches are obviously critical in the development of the Test side and I am delighted that as we head into the fourth match we only have one player who is unavailable for selection. The players and the medical staff have managed the injuries that have been sustained in a very professional manner. This is crucial as we enter matches against two of South Africa’s strongest provinces in the Sharks and Western Province in the space of four days. This is reflected by the fact that four starting players from the Cheetahs match will back up against the Sharks, while five players are starting their third match of the tour. We also have new starting partnerships in the back three, the half-backs and in the front row.(end quote)
The Sharks give full-back Stefan Terblanche the chance to take on former Ospreys team-mates such as Byrne and Shane Williams. The hosts also include prop Deon Carstens, who has been released from the Springboks’ training camp for the encounter.
Carstens was released along with Ryan Kankowski and Odwa Ndungane, but the latter duo were not considered because of injury.
Sharks: Stefan Terblanche; Chris Jordaan, Andries Strauss, Riaan Swanepoel, Luzuko Vulindlu; Monty Dumond, Rory Kockott; Deon Carstens, Skipper Badenhorst, Jannie du Plessis, Steven Sykes, Johann Muller (capt), Jacques Botes, Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel.
Replacements: Craig Burden, Patric Cilliers, Albert van den Berg, Michael Rhodes, Charl McLeod, Guy Cronje, Lwazi Mvovo.
British and Irish Lions: Lee Byrne (Ospreys/Wales); Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster/Ireland); Ronan O’Gara (Munster/Ireland), Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales); Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Lee Mears (Bath/England), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland, capt), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England), David Wallace (Munster/Ireland), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland).
Replacements: Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales), Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England), Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England), Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England), Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland), Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England), Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales).