British and Irish Lions team to face Australia


Warren Gatland has announced his team for the first test this Saturday. It is largely as expected, with Jon Davies partnering Brian O’Driscoll in the centres as Tuilagi and Roberts sit it out through injury. Alex Corbisiero shores up the scrum in the front row, while on the bench Sean Maitland gets the outside backs spot.

Head Coach Warren Gatland said: “After six matches we have arrived at the first Test and have selected our strongest possible side with only Jamie Roberts,Tommy Bowe and Manu Tuilagi unavailable for selection.

“The Wallabies at home pose a huge challenge but the Test team contains 20 of the players that played against the Waratahs in what was our best match to date. We now have a couple of more days of match preparation to ensure we improve again on that performance.”

British & Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O’Connell, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Makovina Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland.

What do you make of the team? Did Gatland get it right?

32 thoughts on “British and Irish Lions team to face Australia

  1. No real surprises with the exception of Lydiate on bench. to my mind he either starts (which he won’t as he hasn’t done enough), or hes not in the squad. Fale, Sob and Tipuric offer more off the bench. would have picked zebo instead of maitland, but i guess maitland is more versatile.

    1. agree with you on both points there Staggy.

      Zebo is versatile too though, he played fullback in the AIs for ireland, as Kearney was out injured.

  2. Spot on I think with the starting 15. Think Corbs a safer option in the scrum! Not sure Lydiate is the choice of the remaining back row for the bench spot tho!!? And desperately sorry for Hogg! Maitland can count himself v lucky he wasn’t involved in that mid week debauchery.
    Anyway c’mon the lions!!!!

  3. Lydiate to my mind has done nothing impressive and has not warranted selection on the bench. Even if SOB is injured (and I’ve not heard he is), Tipuric has been excellent and 6 cover could see Warburton move there.Also a little concerned about the lack of 8 cover that O’Brien would offer.

    Thought Hogg offered at least as much versatility (fullback, wing, centre) as Maitland and has done more to impress. Didn’t have a great game at 10 last week but far from his fault. Cuthbert hasn’t been overly impressive this tour and would much rather have seen Zebo who has looked great with every touch of the ball.

    1. Agree SOB brings real impact and ability to cover all 3 positions. Sadly he played himself out of the shirt on Tues though (possibly already resigned to missing out on a test shirt?). Do wish Lydiate had started with SOB on the bench for that game.

      Going with Lydiate indicates they may be a little worried about the starting backrow and the need to sure up the fringe defence. Lydiate and Warburton are also a great combination which may have been a factor.

      Agree Zebo would have been preferable, but can see a logical argument for Cuthbert as well. Given Zebo also plays across the back 3 I can’t see a strong case for picking Maitland ahead of him (not that I think Maitland is a bad player though)

  4. A good Wallabies vs a good Lions side. Shame about Tipuric as Hooper will be all over Warburton at the breakdown and Maitland is over Zebo wouldnt be my call but the rest of the side looks spot on.

    1. Apologies to all I hit my head and could not put anything too disparaging, I promise normal insults will be resumed soon.

        1. Wow your acknowledging you have parents and they have been apolgising for you since birth!

  5. The Heaslip/Croft combo is a bit of an area of concern. Even without 3 front line players the Aussie backrow contains serious pace at 7, significant power at 8 and a great all round athlete at 6. With the Brumbies result and our selection they will be really coming after us at the breakdown. The odds of Palu scoring the first try round the fringes have just dropped significantly as well. Huge responsibility on Warburton to slow the Aussie ball down. With the speed, footwork and skill at 9, 10 & 12 any ball they do get had better be slow ball!

    If Morahan ran Cuthbert down Ioane will make him look like he’s in reverse. Can see the logic for picking him (work rate, finishing, size/height, the absence of a blockbusting 12), but just worry about Ioane’s gas and footwork.

    The one area I think we have a big advantage is the replacement forwards, front row especially. Not a lot of scrum power on the Aussie bench. In the backs only Youngs looks like an impact option, Farrell and Maitland looking more like cover. Wonder how effective the Aussie 10/12 combination can be without the ball, really fancy North’s chances down that channel.

    Think they will put Falau on 1/2p early. 1/2p is so secure under the high ball, but Falau gets in the air like no other athlete in world rugby, so expect this tactic to be used to try and unsettle 1/2p.

    The Lions must win for the good of the game. Deans has turned Australia into a boring team, and we all want to see exciting traditional Aussie rugby again in the future. All “neutrals” must be “anyone but Australia” for the next 3 weeks!

    Can’t wait!

  6. No surprises with this selection except Maitland on the bench, I would have gone for Kearney. I like the way Gats conceded he had concerns that the Australians might have targeted Vunipola in the set-piece. This might defuse the issue of Lions cheating, the referees already having been fuelled on this by the Aussies

  7. Team nearly picked itself. Cuthbert and Maitland are weak links with Zebo more impressive than either. Kearney may come in contention for second test as cover. At least we have a hooker who can throw in the ball in Youngs. Corbisiero & Vunipola must have been close call but latter may be better in tight. O’Brien might have been more versatile on bench but probably suffering from abysmal team performance on Tuesday.

  8. Can’t believe Falatau didn’t even make the bench, he has been one of the outstanding players on this tour imo.
    Front row to be replaced about 65 mins once the Aussies have been softened up & have cramp from being pushed backwards !!!

  9. No surprises in the starting 15 but i just wish Bowe wasn’t injured as I’m very concerned about Cuthbert’s defense.
    I was initially surprised about Lydiate on the bench over SOB or Tipuric.. but the more i think about it the more I get worried about our fringe defense with Croft and Heaslip playing. I guess Gatland has the same worries and if it’s not going well we may see Lydiate on sooner than expected. I guess I should be happy that Gatland has gone for the more attackign option to start though. On the other hand, what happens if Warburton gets injured? No 7 cover which is where SOB would have been great covering all 3 positions.

  10. Can’t argue with the starting team, the setplay hasn’t been the best so he has picked the players who have performed the best there.

    Lydiate is a surprise, SOB is a much more versatile backrow forward and I think a bigger impact player with his carries, Lydiate is there more to close off the game with his defense, I assume.

    Sorry fir Hogg, the fact that he can play anywhere in the backs including centre is a plus for a bench man, what do we do if a centre breaks down, I think they are thinking Farrell can play centre, but hope to god that doesn’t happen.

    We have a good pack and a great kicker, seems we will try to rack up the points.

  11. Can’t argue with the starting team, the setplay hasn’t been the best so he has picked the players who have performed the best there.

    Lydiate is a surprise, SOB is a much more versatile backrow forward and I think a bigger impact player with his carries, Lydiate is there more to close off the game with his defense, I assume.

    Sorry fir Hogg, the fact that he can play anywhere in the backs including centre is a plus for a bench man, what do we do if a centre breaks down, I think they are thinking Farrell can play centre, but hope to god that doesn’t happen.

    We have a good pack and a great kicker, seems we will try to rack up the points.

    1. If a centre gets injured then North can move in and do a reasonable job. The glaring issue I see is if Halfpenny gets injured, who slots in at fullback?

  12. Nothing to surprising really apart from Crobs over Vunipola. I hope to be proved wrong but I can’t see anything but an Austraila win in the first test. Lions haven’t looked good enough at all.

    1. To be honest, Corbs is a much better operator than Vunipola. Vunipola is quick for his size and big making him a good carrier against tired legs, but Corbs is just generally a smarter player and a neater scrummager. If not for his injuries I’m not sure we would have seen Vunipola feature for England nearly as much as we have.

  13. I like the idea of going with Corbs to start. I think the Aussies will under-estimate his scrummaging ability – they didn’t play against him last autumn. I just hope Pollock refs the scrum properly!

    Vunipola could be devastating at about the 60 min mark

    I’d have taken Zebo over Maitland on the bench.

    And I can’t understand the choice of Lydiate, which seems like a very defensive option. If we’re 5 points down with 10 to go, I cannot see what he would add – SOB or Tipuric on the other hand… Even Faletau would have been a better pick

    The Lions need to take advantage of the channel between JOC and Leali’ifano. Both of them are decent defenders, but this is the first cap for one and there’s an awful lot of pressure on the other to justify his selection at 10. Send North and Cuthbert down it and see how they respond. Its a shame Tuilagi isn’t playing

    Folau’s positioning might be a bit suspect, so I’d expect to see Sexton trying to turn him with the boot. Plus he hasn’t got much of a kick so if the kick chase is right he’ll have to ship it to Barnes, however risky the pass or kick himself – either could be good for the Lions. The kick and the chase will have to be inch perfect though.

    The selection of Leali’ifano suggests they will use him s a second playmaker to spread the ball and stretch the Lions out wide. As the pass will not be coming from 10, it gives the Lions a bit more time to react. I’d expect to see the wings going for the intercept.

    At the breakdown, the front 5 need to hit every ruck and hit it hard. Hooper is very quick but he’s no Pocock or Smith and looks easier to dislodge. He can’t nick the ball if the Lions are rucking over and past the ball.

    Croft needs to do some work in the tight and not just hang about in mid-field or on the wing. And Heaslip needs a game like the one he played against Stade.

    1. agree on the first point about Corbs/mako and Zebo.

      with regards to lydiate, i think that he is there more to help close out a game. if we are 5 points down with 10 to go, i would expect Croft to be staying on, his attacking play is a key part of his game – probably the most likely backrower to score a try.

      Folau’s kicking isnt as bad as you are suggesting, the guy played aussie rules for a year. i do agree on the comment about positioning though, he has played all his super rugby at 15, and now they choose him on the wing. i am sure he will have worked hard there in training, but he was a winger in league, so am sure he wont be too bad.

      i agree that croft should do more work in the tight, but by the sounds of it, he actually gets told to play that way. i remember the lions in 09 specifically told him to do it, and it is what England have tried to replicate more recently with him. its a fair criticism, but he has to play how the team tell him to. if they wanted a 6 to do all the hard work, then they would pick lydiate. there must be a reason for going for croft, and i think his pace and power out wide is why.

      i would expect to see a lot of interchange between Barnes and JOC, also JOC and Leali’ifano. Folau’s height and ariel ability is a threat, and with 3 good kickers of the ball, we are sure to see Folau chasing a few high balls.

  14. I think that this is best team available for selection and will give the wallabies a game! Forward domination , first to break down is going to be critical and if this dominance can be achieved this will give Sexton a chance to put BOD and JD in space and create space out wide for Cuthbert and North. Possession and pressure in right areas of the field can also lead to Penalties and we have the best in the world for this at the moment. Go Lions!

  15. Lydiate and Maitland over SOB and Hogg are surprising choices. I genuinely thought Hogg would get the 23 shirt for every test and play 50-60 minutes of match time over the series. One bad game that was no fault of his own should not condemn him, he’s far more versatile and has had a much better tour thus far than Maitland. Mindboggling decision that I can only put down to Gatland using the lad as a fall guy for his own poor decisions.

    Cuthbert over Zebo doesn’t seem like the best choice either, I bet Ioane is licking his lips in anticipation. Ioane may not be that much faster than Cuthbert, but his acceleration, his pace off the line will run circles around Cuthbert, especially if his defensive positioning is as bad as it was against the Reds.

  16. overall, its the best team that is available.

    i would probably have like Zebo over either of Cuthbert or Maitland, but both have been here since day 1, so i can see why Gats will have gone with them. i expect Cuthbert will be used to chase a lot of kicks, as Ioani isnt great when he is turned, and he also doesnt have a good boot, cuthbert’s size and power should be used to put good pressure on, if not challenge for the ball – his chase has to better than it was in the force game. lions will have to put up a solid chase though, because without a good line, a pass to Barnes will mean he has room to run or plenty of time to kick.

    Corbs with Youngs is the smarter choice. Good scrummager to partner Youngs. Mako would have been better with Hibbard starting. Very happy with the 6 front rowers who are selected. Locks are good, and happy Parling is backing up, he will cover 5 well. he has brought good impact off the bench. POC will shift into the 4 role (enforcer) if AWJ comes off. i think Bob Dwyer’s comments about Mako’s scrummaging may have helped Corbs get a start too.

    good backrow, Warburton needs to make sure he is first to every ruck to secure ball. Heaslip will have to run a bit tighter, as croft will be the wide runner. i dont expect a huge game from Heaslip (this isnt his best style) but i hope he just roles his sleeves up and gets stuck in. POC and AWJ should take on some of the tighter running, to release pressure on Heaslip.

    9 & 10 are as expected. the correct options are on the bench to back up too. centres are really all that was available, but both are deserving. JD2 can play the crash role, but i would expect North to pop up in midfield a lot more than if Manu or Roberts were fit.

    Very happy North is fit. Cuthbert is probably the best finisher of the wingers, so i can see why he is selected. he just needs to keep switched on in defence, as he will be targeted.

    1/2p will take all the penalty chances that come his way. lets hope the forwards can win some. i would like to see him coming into the line like he did against the Tahs, its something that i felt was missing in his game, and was so glad to see it. when he is brought in, he is a top class finisher. i do not expect to see maitland come on at 15 unless there is an injury, so he will cover the wing, most likely Cuthbert if the game is close, but if it is clearly won/lost, then i would expect North to be protected for the 2nd test.

  17. Cuthbert is the only worry in that team for me, I’ve never thought he was as good as people made him out to be last year or at times this year and on this tour I think people are starting to see it, but none of the other fit wingers bar north can defend, just hope Tommy is back for the 2nd test! Mon the Lions!

  18. this is probably up there as the best ball playing centre partnership that the lions would have been able to produce.

    36 and BOD is probably the only one with potential to be slightly better, but with JD having played so well (especially against the Tahs) and 36 having been knocked about a bit in the brumbies game, it had to be the JD and BOD combination.

    Roberts and Manu will be missed, but JD is 6ft 1 and 105kgs. thats the same height as manu, and only 7kgs lighter. 3 inches shorter than roberts, but only 5kgs lighter. to me Davies is not going to stuggle. JOC is 88kgs, Leali’ifano is 95 and AAC is 98 so i think JD will be ok size wise… JD’s left boot will also provide a nice option for getting out of the half, it will help sexton and 1/2p, this is something that Roberts and Manu do not bring (a kicking game, let alone a left foot one)

  19. Apart from Cuthbert and Corbisiero this is the team I would have picked with who’s available. I would have started Vunipola and Zebo. One because I think Vunipola has done enough to earn a test start, and two Zebo gives you something none of the other wingers do, and that’s great footballing skills and unpredictability with the ball in hand. We all know Cuthbert can run really hard and fast, but he’s up against Digby Ioane, and Cuthbert worries me in defence.

  20. Got to agree with the bench lacking back row impact. I think the key to our success on Saturday is to bring a higher intensity and physicality for the whole 80 mins. We need ball carriers to make Cooper and Genia get tied up in defence. Mowen is strong and needs to be neutralised.The only real ball carrying replacement is Vunipola , a lot of responsibility for one man.I don’t think we can beat Australia by out playing them, so we have to keep them defending for te 80.

    1. Hibbard can carry the ball well and Parling makes a surprising amount of ground when he carries

      So its not that bad, but would have preferred to see SOB on the bench rather than Lydiate

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