FOUR IRISH PLAYERS have been given starts for what will be the Lions’ outsiders last chance to press a Test claim against the Wallabies. Rob Kearney, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray and Sean O’Brien will all start against the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday.
Rory Best has been named on the bench and there is a welcome return to action coming up for the fit again Manu Tuilagi. Tommy Bowe is back in Test contention but has been spared a call-up to the matchday 23. Stuart Hogg and Billy Twelvetrees will cover the backline off the bench with Ben Youngs deputising for Murray.
Geoff Parling of Leicester Tigers and England has been made captain for Tuesday’s game. He will be partnered in the second row with Scotland’s Richie Gray. O’Brien is joined in the back row by Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate. Justin Tipuric is kept in reserve.
Tour manager Andy Irvine commented, “We are obviously delighted to start the Test series against the Wallabies with a win but this game is very important to us in terms of keeping the momentum going. Those playing on Tuesday have a major part in delivering this and at the same time keeping the pressure on for Test match selection.”
Murray is joined in the halfback unit by Owen Farrell. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)
Head coach Warren Gatland said, “I am very pleased for Geoff. For him to be part of a winning Lions Test side is very special and he has shown throughout the tour that he is one of the many leaders we have in the squad so we are looking forward to seeing him in that captaincy role.
“It is also good to get Manu back on the pitch after a frustrating injury. This is a good chance for him and others to put their hands up.”
Lions XV to face Melbourne Rebels: Rob Kearney; Sean Maitland, Manusamoa Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Simon Zebo; Owen Farrell, Conor Murray; Ryan Grant, Richard Hibbard, Dan Cole; Richie Gray, Geoff Parling (c); Dan Lydiate, Sean O’Brien, Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Rory Best, Mako Vunipola, Matt Stevens, Ian Evans, Justin Tipuric, Ben Youngs, Billy Twelvetrees, Stuart Hogg.
What do you make of the team? What Irish player has the best chance to make the step up?