British and Irish Lions name team to play Combined Country XV

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Warren Gatland has named his team to play a Combined Country XV on Tuesday in Newcastle. Alex Corbisiero is set to make his first start, while fellow injury replacement Ryan Grant is named on the bench.

Stuart Hogg gets an outing at fly-half with Sean Maitland slotting in at fullback, while the side is captained by Brian O’Driscoll in the midfield. He links up with 2009 centre partner Jamie Roberts.

“The Reds game was always going to be a big challenge, and I was delighted at the victory and the way we were tested,” said Warren Gatland.

“It was a very physical match, as we knew it would be. We now move on to Newcastle and another challenge.

“This team to play Country includes three players – Richie Gray, Alex Cuthbert and Stuart Hogg – who are starting their second game in a row, plus another, George North, who came off the bench early against the Reds.

“This is the nature of Lions tours as we adapt to injuries and playing twice a week.”

“We are delighted to have kept our unbeaten record intact,” said Lions manager Andy Irvine.

“We were pushed all the way by an extremely skilful and committed Reds team that played some brilliant intuitive rugby.

“However, I was incredibly proud of the way we responded and how we defended right to the bitter end. The win will be a tremendous boost to our confidence for the forthcoming Test series.

“We are getting stronger each week, combinations are starting to take shape and we will be determined to head for Sydney next Saturday with another sound win.”

Lions: 15 Sean Maitland, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (c), 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Stuart Hogg, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Rory Best, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Toby Faletau, 21 Mike Phillips, 22 Jonathan Davies, 23 Leigh Halfpenny.

15 thoughts on “British and Irish Lions name team to play Combined Country XV

  1. it seems that Gatland has Adam Jones as a nailed on starter.

    he played 50-60mins in Hong Kong, and 16 mins against the reds. clearly he is being kept as fresh as possible for the tests.

    on the flip side, guys like Gray, Steven, Vunipola (although he is rested this game) Faletau, North and T. Youngs (another rested) are playing a fair amount of rugby on the tour.

    this front row could do some damage, with Grant on the bench to come on. Country could have a torrid time.
    a HUGE 2nd row pairing will be intimidating. will be interesting to see how things go, and who calls the lineout.
    its a VERY mobile backrow, and all three are talented footballers. i was really impressed with SOB’s passing and link play against the Force. We knew the other two could bring the goods in that department, but good to see another dimension from SOB.
    Murray will have to shoulder a fair bit of responsibility. i expect his boxkick to be important – very glad that is an area that he has improved more recently.
    we all know what to expect from the rest of the backline. power, pace and support running. Maitland’s counter attacking could be exciting. i hope he has a good run and makes some hole for himself or others. Cuthbert needs a good run, as he was uninspiring midweek.

    1. Gats has said Davies or Halfpenny will cover. Surprised its not Murray though, since he played there in school. I don’t know about Davies but I played against Halfpenny quite a few times in school and don’t remember him ever playing fly half!

      1. Playing against halfpenny, that must have been pretty good!

        I would say that these guys should be able to cover 10 without too many issues.

        They are playing a team of guys who aren’t household names (not even in Aus).

        My personal view is that a good rugby mind should be able to adapt to a number of positions. Obviously this becomes a bit less prevalent at higher levels, but the lions SHOULD be able to produce a decent enough performance to have one of them at 10 for a bit.

        After all, BOD played 15 against the Western Australia XV back in ’91. And I think with guys like him and Roberts, it should be a bit of a release, even for an inexperienced 10.

        1. BOD’s a legend but playing WA back in ’91 would have been a tall order for even the great man himself! ;-)

    2. apparently Gatland has said that either Davies or Halfpenny will cover 10 if an injury occurs to Hogg.

      Even if that doesnt happen, i expect BOD to shoulder a fair few “playmaker” responsibilities.

      i also think that the selection of SOB, Tipuric and Heaslip as the backrow is key. these are probably the most “rounded” of the backrow players in the squad. all have shown pace and power, but also good passing and link play in the past. i would expect them to shoulder a fair amount of passing responsibility either as first receiver or 2nd.

      Maitland is also a classy player. Probably not up to the task of covering 10, but definitely available to join the line and add an extra pair of passing hands when needs be.

      ultimately though, i would expect this game to be pretty well dominated in the pack. there are guys in this Country team who are going to be good players, but they never made the grade (apparently they have a student and an office worker).

      the power of the lions’ pack should be too much too handle, this SHOULD mean a pretty easy ride for whomever plays 10. (still a chance of some very psyched up players producing a wonder performance in a once-in-a-lifetime experience)

  2. It seem that Halfpenny will be emergency fly-half cover if Hogg gets injured.

    I thought that this team announcement would give us more clues about the first test 15.
    I expected Gatland to keep his test starters out of this one.
    I does not look like he has with guys like North, Roberts and maybe BOD being named.
    Maybe the masterplan is to play some test combinations against Country and some against the Waratahs, that way Robbie Deans does not get to see the test side in action before the first test?

    Downside with that is the Lions test 15 dont get a run out together which seems bizarre for a team that is being pieced together so quickly.
    More questions than answers for me??

    Let think about the guys who have been left out completely of this squad:
    Have these guys secured their test spot and are going to start against the waratahs??
    People like:
    Adam Jones
    POC
    Geoff Parling
    Tom Croft

    The plot thickens!
    I can only assume that Gatland does not want the classic Saturday and mid-week team split to happen in the squad just yet!

    1. I think you are right about having a few combinations in this game, and a few in the waratahs game.

      Also, if the last of their test players feature in the waratahs game, then they will have a whole week before the wallabies game. (Non-test players playing midweek)

      Also, I agree that there is a negative with the test XV not getting a good runout together. But the good thing is that, as you said, the squad will stay unified. And also, the lions should be a (sort of) unknown commodity to the wallabies – that is one of the biggest positives to the lions, IMO.

      Overall I have been pretty impressed with Gatland so far. He has made sure that it is one squad, and not a clear midweek vs test lot. This is good for unity and moral.

      The magic if the lions is that no one knows the starting XV for the 1st test until they are announced. This is such a unique sporting team, I love it!

  3. It is important , I think, to bear in mind that the Lions have only played one challenging game thus far, and I am pretty sure that Gatlnad would want to see the majority, if not all, of the squad playing against the Reds, the Warratahs and the Brumbies.

    So I would expect to see quite a different team this coming Saturday, to the one we say against the Reds.

    This mid-week game then, is a means by which to shuffle his saturday players.

  4. Another interesting thing is that most of the Irish players seemed to have performed better than their 6N form. Probably shows that Kidney wasn’t getting the best out of them.

  5. I have to say that my regard for Gatland has been going up. Questioned some of his picks, but most seem to be working out, and thought he was mad for not taking Best initially, but he seems to have been proven right. Would still question a couple of marginal picks, but when isn’t that the case on a tour anywhere.

  6. Seems to be a selection about 2 things
    1)Combinations/Partnerships
    We’ve got the 2009 centre partners and the 3 form (from the tour) back rowers together as a unit in their best positions. Also seems we are likely to get a look at POC and AWJ at the weekend.

    2)Contingency.
    The obvious ones!

    It does seem that it’s going to make the Saturday selection interesting, how close will it be to the test XV?

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