The British & Irish Lions team to play Western Force at Patersons Stadium, Perth on Wednesday contains eight Ireland internationals, including centre Brian O’Driscoll who will captain the tourists.
The 23-man matchday squad contains eight new Lions and will be captained by Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll, who will be leading the Lions for the sixth time after four outings as skipper in New Zealand in 2005 and one four years ago in South Africa.
The starting line-up does not include any of the players that started against the Barbarians in Hong Kong last Saturday.
Five of the starting team, Manu Tuilagi, Sean O’Brien, Ian Evans, Dan Cole and Rory Best, will be making their Lions debuts, while six players are backing up having played off the bench against the Barbarians.
O’Driscoll will be partnered by Tuilagi in the centre with winger Tommy Bowe, half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray, prop Cian Healy and back rowers O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip completing the big Irish involvement.
Lions tour manager Andy Irvine said: “The lads who played in Hong Kong put down a marker as they performed extremely well in very tough conditions. I am sure that this team playing against Western Force will be just as eager to show their mettle in Perth.
“I told the team in Hong Kong that they were custodians of the red jersey. That responsibility is now with this group of players and I am confident they will give their all against the Force. This is the first match of the tour in Australia and the Lions are keen to make a winning start here.”
Head coach Warren Gatland commented: “There were a lot of positives to come out of the first match in Hong Kong. Our fitness and application were excellent and we operated well in the set pieces. That said, it was our first match and naturally we were a bit rusty, and there is definitely room for improvement.”
“Of course this is a completely new team and the challenge is to ensure that the selected players continue the on-field progress we are seeking.
“With Brian at the helm you can be sure they will be ready to emulate the victory against the Barbarians. This is his fourth Lions tour and he is a respected leader.”
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS Team & Replacements (v Western Force, 2013 British & Irish Lions Tour, Patersons Stadium, Perth, Wednesday, June 5, kick-off 6pm local time/11am Irish time):
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
14. Tommy Bowe (Ulster/Ireland)
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland) (capt)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers/England)
11. George North (Scarlets/Wales)
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland)
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland)
1. Cian Healy (Leinster/Ireland)
2. Rory Best (Ulster/Ireland)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England)
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
5. Ian Evans (Ospreys/Wales)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)
16. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England)
18. Matt Stevens (Saracens/England)
19. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England)
20. Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales)
21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens/England)
23. Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland)