Four times British & Irish Lion Brian O’Driscoll will captain the side against Western Force in the first tour match against Australian opposition.
Tour captain Sam Warburton has failed to recover in time for this match so O’Driscoll takes the armband eight years after leading the Lions to New Zealand in 2005, and four years after leading the Lions on a tour match in South Africa in 2009.
What was said…
“…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.”
The Lions have made wholesale changes to their team, with the contingent of Leicester Tigers and Leinster players being considered for the first time.
New Lions in the team include Rory Best, Dan Cole, Sean O’Brien and Manu Tuilagi. Whilst Tommy Bowe, Tom Croft and Leigh Halfpenny make their tour debuts although all three toured with the Lions in 2009. Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Alun Wyn Jones, Conor Murray and Jonny Sexton all come into the team having all made substitute appearances in Hong Kong.
Brian O’Driscoll originally made his Lions debut in Perth starting as a full back in the 10-116 rout of Western Australia in 2001, the only time in his career he played at full back.
O’Driscoll said “I am a bit more comfortable playing at 13 this time. It is very exciting. I haven’t lost any of the buzz about being involved with the Lions. It is still a very special place to be.
“Now we have finally arrived in Australia it feels like the tour has truly begun. We are in a good place. It is a very strong squad with huge competition for places, and you don’t want any bad individual or collective performance at this stage as we build towards the first Test.”
British & Irish Lions team to face Western Force:
15: Leigh Halfpenny
14: Tommy Bowe
13: Brian O’Driscoll (c)
12: Manu Tuilagi
11: George North
10: Jonathan Sexton
9: Conor Murray
8: Jamie Heaslip
7: Sean O’Brien
6: Tom Croft
5: Ian Evans
4: Alun Wyn Jones
3: Dan Cole
2: Rory Best
1: Cian Healy