British and Irish Lions 2013: The first test team for the First Test?


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The Independent Online

Full-back Leigh Halfpenny

His 11 out of 11 against Western Force confirmed his standing as an outstanding kicker and he is favourite to end the series as the Lions’ top points-scorer because he is also a try-scorer thanks to clever footwork.

Right-wing Alex Cuthbert

He has been struggling to match the impact of fellow wing George North and only gets the vote because Tommy Bowe  has broken a hand - but he can be a real handful in attack and runs  great lines.

Outside-centre Brian O’Driscoll

The Irish legend nearly did the splits in the midweek game, which means he has been given light duties - however, he will be fully fit to offer the Lions vital experience in attack and defence on Saturday.

Inside-centre Jonathan DaviEs

(If Jamie Roberts is ruled out with a hamstring injury). Has really impressed on the tour, offering a hugely physical presence and the ability to offload. He enjoys linking up with O’Driscoll and the pair continue their 2009 Lions partnership.

Left-wing George North

The big Welsh wing has been outstanding so far on tour and carries a physical and speed threat. Even with a worry over a hamstring he has to start, because he is a potential match-winner.

Outside-half Jonathan Sexton

The Ireland No 10 has kept ahead of Owen Farrell courtesy of his better tactical kicking, link work and miss-passes, and these will be required as the Lions launch a multi-phase attacking plan on the Wallabies.

Scrum-half Mike Phillips

Back to his aggressive best and will be a constant problem for the Wallaby fringe defence. The Lions are basing their gameplan around the Welsh No 9, who will have a huge role to play in the series.

Loosehead Mako Vunipola

He was supposed to be the guy head coach Warren Gatland brought on for the final 20 minutes to make a real impact, but injury has now made him the first-choice loosehead, and that’s a big responsibility.

Hooker Richard Hibbard

The Welsh hooker has size over Tom Youngs, and in the contest up front that is a key factor. His line-out throwing needs work, along with his impact with ball in hand and tackle count.

Tighthead Adam Jones

He is the rock on which the Lions scrum is built and the Wallabies will not be able to handle him legally, which means the Welshman will have to deal with lots of messing around – but he has seen it all before.

Lock Paul O’Connell

His return to fitness was a real bonus for Gatland leading into the tour. Good at the line-out and scrum, O’Connell has shown a great work-rate in the loose and is a rallying point.

Lock Alun Wyn Jones

The vacancy alongside O’Connell is one that Wyn Jones gets because of his experience, and that will be vital in the white heat of the First Test, when the Wallabies will throw everything at the Lions.

Blindside flanker Tom Croft

He has been superb around the pitch, stealing ball, running in long-range tries and becoming a key line-out option. He was good in 2009 and is going to be great in 2013.

Openside flanker Sam Warburton

He gets the nod ahead of fellow Welshman Justin Tipuric on the evidence of the Waratahs game and the fact that any touring team need to go on the field with their captain in place for the First Test.

No 8 Jamie Heaslip

Is chosen just ahead of Toby Faletau on form, although he does not have the Welsh player’s ball-carrying ability. Heaslip will be asked to roam wider and punch holes in midfield with ball in hand.