Head coach Warren Gatland has made a huge decision in dropping veteran centre Brian O’Driscoll from the matchday 23. Jamie Roberts partners Jonathan Davies in the centres, while Manu Tuilagi comes onto the bench.
Mike Phillips is back at scrum-half while Conor Murray deputises on the bench, leaving no room in the squad for Ben Youngs. It is a much-changed in the back-row, as well, with Lydiate, O’Brien and Faletau starting and Tipuric on the bench – Croft and Heaslip drop out of the squad.
Alex Corbisiero and Richard Hibbard start in the front row, while Richie Gray is the only Scot in the squad on the bench.
“It all comes down to Saturday – the winner takes all. We know we can leave nothing in the tank and that only a complete performance will get us across the line,” said Gatland.
“Picking this team was not easy and ultimately, with several players available after recovering from injury, the head overruled the heart in many selection decisions.
“Brian O’Driscoll is a great player and has had a wonderful career but for the final Test in Sydney we just felt Jamie Roberts’ presence offered us something more.”
Gatland was the first man to pick O’Driscoll for an international match back in 1999 and he has now become the first one to drop him 14 years later.
“We told him this morning and he was obviously disappointed, as anyone would be. But he appreciated the fact that he was spoken to before the announcement,” said the coach.
“It’s the first time that any coach has had that decision with him in 15 years of rugby. It’s not easy for that to be the first time, but he’s still going to be very important for us for the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership.
“It wasn’t about leadership – it was about picking what we felt was the best team.”
“Alun Wyn gets his opportunity on Saturday. He leads from the front and he’s been outstanding in the lead up games and was one of the first names on the sheet when he picked the team for the first two Tests.”
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi
What do you make of the team?