Croft handed Lions Test start

Tom Croft completed his rapid rise from Lions outcast to Test starter after being named in the side to play South Africa in Durban on Saturday.

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan pulled no late selection surprises for his starting XV for the first Test, with Croft to start against the world champions at blindside flanker.



David Wallace held off the challenge from Martyn Williams to claim the open-side berth with his Ireland colleague Jamie Heaslip completing a back row combination with proven success on tour.



Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll have also struck up an effective midfield partnership while McGeechan has opted for Welsh pair Stephen Jones and Mike Phillips in the half-backs.



Alun-Wyn Jones won the race to start alongside captain Paul O'Connell in the second row with Phil Vickery and Gethin Jenkins to prop alongside England hooker Lee Mears.



There were two notable omissions from the match 22 with no place on the bench for winger Shane Williams, the 2008 world player of the year, and England prop Andrew Sheridan.



Wales' Adam Jones has been named as the replacement prop with Rob Kearney covering the back three.

McGeechan explained form and successful combinations underpinned the selection for Saturday's first Test.

"The Test team has been picked on form following the six provincial matches. There were some very difficult calls to make as the players as a group and individually have done everything that we have asked of them and performed on the field," said McGeechan.



"It has been 20 years since a Lions team has won all of its provincial matches leading up to the Test series so it is very satisfying to be in such a position.



"The entire squad and the management have worked hard to create an outstanding team environment. Everyone has done this very professionally and it is fair to say that I would not change anything that we have done so far."



Donncha O'Callaghan, who captained the Lions against the Southern Kings in midweek, Matthew Rees, Harry Ellis and Ronan O'Gara completed the replacement bench.



Scotland prop Euan Murray was unavailable for selection with an ankle injury, which, McGeechan confirmed, has ruled him out of the tour.



James Hook was also not considered after suffering a blow to the head against the Southern Kings this week but the Wales fly-half is expected to be available to face the Emerging Springboks on Tuesday.

Croft, the Leicester flanker, was described by Lions forwards coach Warren Gatland as the unluckiest player to miss out on selection for the initial squad.

The Lions coaching staff had initially preferred the abrasive nature of Munster flanker Alan Quinlan.



But Croft received a call-up after Quinlan was ruled out of the tour through suspension and he has taken his chance with a series of impressive performances.



Croft brings pace and dynamism around the park but he also offers a lineout agility that will be key if the Lions are to match the established Springbok duo of Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield.







British and Irish Lions team to play South Africa in the first Test in Durban on Saturday:

L Byrne (Wales and Ospreys); T Bowe (Ireland and Ospreys), B O'Driscoll (Ireland and Leinster), J Roberts (Wales and Cardiff Blues), U Monye (England and Harlequins); S Jones (Wales and Scarlets), M Phillips (Wales and Ospreys); G Jenkins (Wales and Cardiff Blues), L Mears (England and Bath), P Vickery (England and Wasps), Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales and Ospreys), P O'Connell (Ireland and Munster, capt), T Croft (England and Leicester), D Wallace (Ireland and Munster), J Heaslip (Ireland and Leinster).



Replacements: M Rees (Wales and Scarlets), A Jones (Wales and Ospreys), D O'Callaghan (Ireland and Munster), M Williams (Wales and Cardiff Blues), H Ellis (England and Leicester), R O'Gara (Ireland and Munster), R Kearney (Ireland and Leinster).

Suggested Topics
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
people
Life & Style
The new low cost smartphone of Motorola, 'Motorola Moto G', is displayed in Sao Paulo, Brazil on November 13, 2013. The smartphone, with dimensions 65.9mm W x 129.9mm H x 6.0 - 11.6mm D is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with quad-core 1,2 GHz CPU, a 4.5-inch display and Android Operating System 4.3 and a suggested price of $ 179 USD.
techData assessing smartphones has revealed tens of millions of phones are at risk of being harvested
Arts & Entertainment
Jessica Pare as Megan Draper and Jon Hamm as the troubled, melancholy Don Draper
tvAnd six other questions we hope Mad Men series seven will answer
Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.
film
News
David Beckham is planning to build a stadium in Miami’s port for a new football team he will own
news... in his fight for a football stadium in Miami's port area
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?