Luke Fitzgerald, Leigh Halfpenny and Donncha O’Callaghan all make thier Lions bows tomorrow in the game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Fitzgerald will start at 12, outside of James Hook at 10. Fitzgerald is an accomplished inside centre, but has filled the 11 shirt more recently for both club and country over the past season. However, a livewire performance tomorrow could put him back in the race for those coveted wing spots – and Hook will be looking to create space for the young Leinster tyro in an attempt to show the selectors that he is a viable alternative to the reliable Jones and O’Gara.
Paul O’Connell will resume the captaincy alongside his Munster and Ireland second row partner, Donncha O’Callaghan. The back row also sees Stephen Ferris and Andy Powell make their first starts – both will be keen to show their real potential after a brief run-out on Wednesday against the Golden Lions. The back row is completed by Joe Worsley at openside, who benefits from Martyn Williams’ shoulder injury and will be looking to be at his destructive best.
In the backs, Keith Earls regains the 13 shirt, and will no doubt be determined to get “back on tour” following his disappointing performance in the opening game against the Royal XV. Shane Williams, Leigh Halfpenny and Lee Byrne make up an all-Welsh back three.
Gordon D’Arcy also gets a chance to stake a claim for a Test spot from the bench.
Will this team be able to raise the bar even higher following the midweek performance?