Lions Tour - O'Driscoll to captain Lions

Brian O'Driscoll will captain a green-tinted British and Irish Lions team for their opening match in Australia against the Western Force on Wednesday as tour skipper Sam Warburton continues to rest his sore knee.

Reuters
Lions Tour - O'Driscoll to captain Lions
.

View photo

Brian O'Driscoll will lead British and Irish Lions on Wednesday

The former Irish captain leads a side featuring seven of his international team mates, including fly-half Jonny Sexton, hooker Rory Best, winger Tommy Bowe, prop Cian Healy, flanker Sean O'Brien, scrum-half Connor Murray and number eight Jamie Heaslip.

O'Driscoll's Leinster colleague Rob Kearney, though, is struggling with a worrying hamstring injury which could end the full-back's tour prematurely.

"Rob Kearney is a little bit of a concern for us at the moment to be honest," head coach Warren Gatland told reporters after the team announcement on Monday.

"We are going to see how he responds and so we need to be potentially prepared that the hamstring injury might not heal as quickly as we would like and we have got to put some other potential plans in place."

Gatland said talk of replacing the full-back, who played in all three Tests against South Africa on the last Lions tour in 2009, was premature with adequate cover already in the squad.

"We want to give him a good time," he said. "We feel like we have cover at the moment with Leigh Halfpenny and Stuart Hogg and obviously Sean Maitland has played a fair bit at full back.

"But potentially if we do get another knock then we will have to think about a replacement."

Also missing Wednesday's match at Subiaco Oval against Australia's lowest ranked Super Rugby side is Warburton, who continues to rest after an injection to help fix a knee problem.

Gatland said the Wales flanker should be in contention to play in Saturday's match against the Queensland Reds at Lang Park in Brisbane, also the venue for the first Test against the Wallabies on June 22.

"We said we were going to keep him out of training for five days since he had that injection," the Welsh coach said of his skipper. "He has been coming back and doing some of his own training."

The squad touched down in Perth on Monday morning to be greeted by much cooler temperatures than they faced in humid Hong Kong, where they dispatched the Barbarians with ease 59-8 on Saturday.

"The tour feels like it has truly begun now we have landed on Australian soil," said O'Driscoll, who captained the ill-fated 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand.

The Irishman will be joined in the centres for Wednesday's clash by Manu Tuilagi, one of three Englishmen in the side along with prop Dan Cole and flanker Tom Croft. Winger Maitland is the only Scottish representative in the matchday 23.

Halfpenny starts at full-back, Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans make up an all Welsh second row with George North aiming to replicate the stand out form of fellow Welsh winger Alex Cuthbert in the Barbarians win.

Cuthbert scored two of the Lions eight tries against the Barbarians and O'Driscoll praised the team display while warning there was little room for error with only five matches before the first test.

"They set a good standard, it was very, very difficult conditions," the 34-year-old said.

"We have a very strong squad with huge competition for places so you don't want to have any individual or collective bad performances at this stage. You want to build towards that first test match.

"We were pleased with how we started but we need to continue building and working hard at training and when we get to games, try to have a bit of ruthlessness about our mentality and performance."

Team: 15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12-Manu Tuilagi, 11-George North, 10-Jonny 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 Healey.

Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Matt Stevens, 19-Geoff Parling, 20-Toby Faletau, 21-Ben Youngs, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Sean Maitland.

View Comments