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O'Driscoll omitted for series decider

03 July 2013

  • Ireland centre dropped in favour of returning Jamie Roberts
  • Alex Corbisiero picked at loosehead after shrugging off calf complaint
Alex Corbisiero

Photo: Getty Images

Ireland centre Brian O’Driscoll has been dropped from the British and Irish Lions side to play Australia in the series decider at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Saturday, with England’s Alex Corbisiero returning to a team that has undergone six changes.

O’Driscoll’s omission comes as part of a significant overhaul to the side that lost 16-15 in the second Test last weekend, with captain Alun-Wyn Jones one of 10 Welshman in the side, equalling the Lions record.

Corbisiero is back at loose head after fighting his way back to fitness following a calf complaint, as Mike Phillips takes over from Ben Youngs in the scrum half position he relinquished after the series opener in Brisbane 10 days ago.

Elsewhere, Richard Hibbard replaces Tom Youngs at hooker and No. 8 Toby Faletau comes in for Jamie Heaslip, while strong carrying Sean O’Brien takes the openside flanker spot vacated by the hamstring injury to tour skipper Sam Warburton.

Having recovered from a hamstring problem of his own, Jamie Roberts – the Lions’ player of the series from 2009 – is selected at inside centre, Jonathan Davies shifting one out to his natural outside centre berth.

The replacements’ bench has seen drastic alterations, too. Mako Vunipola and Tom Youngs are given the task of injecting energy into the front row late on, with Richie Gray involved as specific second-row cover.

Justin Tipuric caps an excellent season with a seat among the reserves and Manu Tuilagi is also entrusted with making an impact. There is no room for Tom Croft.

After dropping O’Driscoll for the only time in 15 years of working with him, Lions head coach Warrren Gatland said the iconic Leinsterman still had a role to play around the camp.

Alun-Wyn Jones

Photo: Gettty Images

"It's not easy for that to be the first time [to drop O’Driscoll] but he is still going to be very important for us in the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership," he said.

"Brian was disappointed but he appreciated that he was spoken to before the team announcement.

"Jamie is back fit and has been given the nod because of his partnership with Davies."

On Alun-Wyn Jones, who has now won 75 Test caps including five for the Lions, Gatland added: "He leads from the front. He's been outstanding in the lead-up games and was one of the first names on the team-sheet when we picked the side for the first two Tests.

"He'll lead by example. There are leaders in other positions as well."

British and Irish Lions side to face Australia at ANZ Stadium on July 6, kick-off 11:05am BST: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips; 1 Alex Corbisiero, 2 Richard Hibbard, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones (capt), 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Sean O'Brien, 8 Toby Faletau.

Replacements: 16 Mako Vunipola, 17 Tom Youngs, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi.