Lions 2013- The Story So Far…
Alex Corbisiero has been named ahead of Mako Vunipola in the British and Irish Lions side for Saturday’s opening Test against Australia.
Corbisiero’s 94 minutes of rugby for the Lions convinced Gatland to pick him ahead of Vunipola, who is likely to provide second-half firepower from the bench.
Explaining his reasoning this morning, Gatland said: “Mako’s been pretty unlucky. We’ve looked at the weather conditions and there’s a threat of showers.
“I’ve no doubt that Robbie Deans has looked at Mako technically at scrum time.
“Mako coming off the bench will give us a huge amount of impetus and that’s a big strength of his game.
Apart from the inclusion of Corbisiero the starting XV chosen by Gatland was as expected, although a surprise name on the bench is Wales blindside Dan Lydiate. Toby Faletau or Sean O’Brien were expected to offer back row cover.
Wales wing George North starts after passing a fitness test on his hamstring injury yesterday with compatriot Alex Cuthbert deployed on the opposite flank in the absence of Tommy Bowe, who is recovering from hand surgery.
Gatland admitted that the 47-17 win against the NSW Waratahs helped him pick his team.
“We went through due process and there was a good discussion about the team,” he said.
“Obviously the make-up of the loose forwards was one, the make-up of the front row was a big discussion and the make-up of the midfield too,
“A lot of the players were rewarded for their performance last Saturday against the Waratahs. That was an extremely positive performance and a lot of those selected for Saturday played against the Waratahs.
“But given the attrition rate of the series it’s important the rest of the squad stay focused. We’re a really close-knit group and there’s a positive feeling in the team.”
British and Irish Lions Team
L Halfpenny (Wales); A Cuthbert (Wales), B O’Driscoll (Ireland), J Davies (Wales), G North (Wales); J Sexton (Ireland), M Phillips (Wales); A Corbisiero (England), T Youngs (England), A Jones (Wales), A-W Jones (Wales), P O’Connell (Ireland), T Croft (England), S Warburton (Wales, Capt), J Heaslip (Ireland).
Replacements: R Hibbard (Wales), M Vunipola (England), D Cole (England), G Parling (England), D Lydiate (Wales), B Youngs (England), O Farrell (England), S Maitland (Scotland).
B Barnes (NSW Waratahs); I Folau (NSW Waratahs), A Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), C Lealiifano (Brumbies), D Ioane (Queensland Reds); J O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels), W Genia (Queensland Reds); B Robinson (NSW Waratahs), S Moore (Brumbies), B Alexander (Brumbies), K Douglas (NSW Waratahs), J Horwill (Queensland Reds, capt), B Mowen (Brumbies), M Hooper (NSW Waratahs), W Palu (NSW Waratahs).
Replacements: S Fainga’a (Queensland Reds), J Slipper (Queensland Reds), S Kepu (NSW Waratahs), R Simmons (Queensland Reds), L Gill (Queensland Reds), N Phipps (Melbourne Rebels), P McCabe (Brumbies), K Beale (Melbourne Rebels).