FOUR IRISHMEN HAVE been named in the Lions starting XV to play the NSW Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Saturday.
Simon Zebo will make his Lions debut on the left wing, Jamie Heaslip starts at Number 8, Paul O’Connell teams up in the second row with Alun Wyn Jones and Jonathan Sexton has recovered from a hamstring strain to start at outhalf. Tour captain Sam Warburton will lead the team.
Rob Kearney will make his first appearance of the tour on the bench after recovering from a leg injury that made him unavailable for selection until this point of the tour. The fullback will be hoping to get 20 to 30 minutes off the bench against his former coach Michael Cheika, who now leads the Waratahs.
Head coach Warren Gatland declared earlier in the week that this team would closely resemble the side that would take on Australia in the First Test. It is likely that Brian O’Driscoll and George North, two players that have featured heavily in warm-up matches to date, will come into the starting line-up to face the Wallabies.
He said, “It would be great to remain unbeaten and take that momentum into the First Test. However, more importantly we are looking to finalise key playing combinations and strengthen our patterns of play during the next two matches. This match, the fourth of our lead-up matches in Australia, will assist in this process.
To beat the Waratahs we know we have to improve on our strong performance last Saturday against the Reds. This side is more than capable of doing that.”
Lions Tour manager Andy Irvine said: “The squad has a lot of respect for the NSW Waratahs who have proven down the years to be tough opponents… the players know that Test places are still up for grabs and they will be eager to press for selection against the Wallabies.”
Lions XV to play Waratahs: Leigh Halfpenny; Sean Maitland, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton, Mike Phillips; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell; Tom Croft, Sam Warburton (c), Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Rob Kearney.