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Lions to unleash Tuilagi, Cole and Croft in Perth

03 June 2013

  • Tuilagi, Cole and Croft among starting XV, six more England players among replacements
  • Brian O'Driscoll captains side from outside centre
Dan Cole in Lions training

Photo: Getty Images

Manu Tuilagi, Dan Cole and Tom Croft have all been named in the British and Irish Lions side to face Western Force on Wednesday at Patersons Stadium in Perth (kick-off 11.00am BST).

As expected, Warren Gatland has made wholesale changes to the line-up that thrashed the Barbarians 59-8 in Hong Kong, with George North, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Cian Healy, Alun-Wyn Jones and Jamie Heaslip all promoted from the bench.

Tour captain Sam Warburton is still sidelined with a knee problem so Brian O'Driscoll, the 2005 skipper and Tuilagi's midfield partner, steps in to lead the side.

Tommy Bowe and Leigh Halfpenny make their first apperances of the tour in an extremely strong-looking backline, while Ulster's Rory Best, Osprey Ian Evans and Sean O'Brien of Leinster are given their maiden Lions outings from the first whistle.

Geoff Parling and Ben Youngs are set for debuts too after being selected among the replacements, with Mako Vunipola, Matt Stevens, Tom Youngs, Toby Faletau, Owen Farrell and Sean Maitland completing the match-day 23.

This is a potentially tricky tie for the Lions given the Force have already chalked up wins against both the Crusaders and the Reds in Super 15 competition this campaign.

However, skipper O'Driscoll seemed calm and confident when speaking at the team announcement earlier today.

"It is very exciting," said the four-tour veteran. "I haven't lost any of the buzz about being involved with the Lions. It is still a very special place to be.

"Now we have finally arrived in Australia it feels like the tour has truly begun. We are in a good place. It is a very strong squad with huge competition for places, and you don't want any bad individual or collective performances at this stage as we build towards the first Test."

British and Irish Lions team to face Western Force in Perth on Wednesday, June 5 (kick-off 11:00am BST)

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
14. Tommy Bowe (Ireland)
13. Brian O'Driscoll (Ireland, captain)
12. Manu Tuilagi (England)
11. George North (Wales)
10. Jonny Sexton (Ireland)
9. Conor Murray (Ireland)
1. Cian Healy (Ireland)
2. Rory Best (Ireland)
3. Dan Cole (England)
4. Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales)
5. Ian Evans (Wales)
6. Tom Croft (England)
7. Sean O'Brien (Ireland)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Ireland)

Replacements

16. Tom Youngs (England)
17. Mako Vunipola (England)
18. Matt Stevens (England)
19. Geoff Parling (England)
20. Toby Faletau (Wales)
21. Ben Youngs (England)
22. Owen Farrell (England)
23. Sean Maitland (Scotland)