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Gatland picks strong side to face Waratahs

13 June 2013

  • Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs and Tom Croft named in strong pack
  • Warren Gatland eyes momentum ahead of Tests

Tom Croft

Photo: Getty Images

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has given an indication to his thinking for the clash with the Wallabies by naming a strong line-up to face the Waratahs at the Allianz Stadium.

Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, fit-again Jonny Sexton and Mike Phillips are fancied to start the opening Test in the back division, with Sean Maitland, Jonathan Davies and Simon Zebo out to strengthen their claims in the absence of Brian O'Driscoll, George North and Alex Cuthbert.

O'Driscoll is still feeling 'sore' after the win over the Combined Country XV, while North and Cuthbert are rested after impressing so far on the tour.

In the pack, Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs and Adam Jones team up in the front row, with Alun-Wyn Jones and Paul O'Connell forming a vastly-experienced second row pairing.

Sam Warburton will skipper the side in the No. 7 jersey, with Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip joining him in the back row.

There is a first appearance on the tour for Rob Kearney, with the Ireland full-back named on the bench after recovering from the hamstring injury that forced him to miss the first four games.

Alex Corbisiero, a late call up to the squad, is also named among the replacements along with Owen Farrell, who was rested for the midweek win in Newcastle.

"It would be great to remain unbeaten and take that momentum into the first Test," said Gatland.

"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."

British and Irish Lions side to face the Waratahs on Saturday, June 15 (kick-off 10:30am BST): 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips; 1 Mako Vunipola, 2 Tom Youngs, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 5 Paul O'Connell, 6 Tom Croft, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Rob Kearney.