Gatland springs major surprises for final test

Last updated 16:00 03/07/2013
Lions celebrate
Getty Images Zoom
Injured captain Sam Warburton holds the series trophy after victory at ANZ Stadium.
Warren Gatland
Getty Images
ALL TO PLAY FOR: Lions coach Warren Gatland will be hoping his side can wrap up the test series with the Wallabies.
Opinion poll

Who do you want to win the deciding test between the Lions and the Wallabies?

Australia - got to back the boys from Down Under.

Lions - anyone but the Aussies.

I don't care who wins.

Vote Result

Related Links

George Smith tipped to start against Lions Bill Pulver proposes Sanzar 'Lions' for 2015 Warburton to miss Sydney decider with injury Horwill, Deans relieved after captain cleared Australian union demands citing process review Lions hope injured trio fit for series decider Woodward slams 'surfing' Lions' preparation

Relevant offers


Kiwi players reinstated by Grenoble rugby club in France Kiwi first-five Jimmy Gopperth: Lions' path to victory - attack France vice-captain fined $45,000 for criticising referee Wayne Barnes Auckland-born Sale wing Denny Solomona sets sights on England call-up Kiwis opening homes to British and Irish Lions fans without taking payment Jack Lam, Siale Piutau ink new deals with Bristol Mark Reason: My homage to the scrummage Hurricanes' Jordie Barrett included in Baby Blacks squad for Oceania tournament Marc Hinton: With apologies to ballroom dancing, Aussie rugby decline hits new low Todd Blackadder suffers one of the worst hidings of his coaching career

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has put his reputation on the line by making sweeping changes to his side for Saturday night's series-deciding test against the Wallabies in Sydney. 

Already without the irreplaceable experience of veteran lock Paul O'Connell and the energy of tour captain Sam Warburton, Gatland has boldly decided to omit talismanic Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll - who was widely tipped to lead the team - from his squad completely. 

O'Driscoll, who has captained at test level on a world record 84 occasions and would have provided ample experience on the field, is replaced in the backline by Welshman Jamie Roberts, who missed the first two tests with injury. 

The utility role on the bench has gone to England's Manu Tuilagi.

"Brian was disappointed but he appreciated that he was spoken to before the team announcement," Gatland said at the team announcement today.

"It's the first time that a coach has ever made the decision with him in 15 years of rugby.

"Jamie is back fit and has been given the nod in terms of his partnership with [fellow Welshman] Davies."

The Lions will be led by Welshman Alun Wyn Jones as they chase their first series victory since 1997's tour of South Africa.

"It wasn't about picking a captain but the best team. Then the question was who would do the best job once we'd picked the team," Gatland added.

"Alun just leads from the front. He was one of the first names on the sheet in the first test and he will lead by example. He is an important part of the engine room that needs to fire for us on Saturday."

Wyn Jones will scrum-down in a pack that contains four changes from last weekend's 16-15 loss to the Wallabies in Melbourne which levelled the series at one win apiece. 

In the front row England's Mako Vunipola takes his place in the reserves to make way for fit again compatriot Alex Corbisiero, while Richard Hibbard takes over at hooker from Tom Youngs, who also drops to the bench. 

Irish powerhouse Sean O'Brien has been given the nod at No 7 in place of Warburton but there is no room for his Ireland colleague Jamie Heaslip who drops out of the test squad to be replaced by Toby Faletau.

Elsewhere in the backs Mike Phillips comes in at No 9 to replace England's Ben Youngs, who like O'Driscoll and Heaslip, also drops out of the match day squad. 

Ad Feedback

However, the decision to go with Ireland's Connor Murray on the bench as back-up to Phillips will be seen as a curious one given both players have a very similar playing style. 

Gatland, however, seems to have courage in his convictions: "There's been a lot of competition in this squad. But the changes are going to strengthen the team."

Lions: Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North, Johnny Sexton, Mike Phillips; Alex Corbisiero, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, AW Jones (c), Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Sean O'Brien, Toby Faletau. Reserves: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Justin Tipuric, Connor Murray, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi

- Fairfax Media

Special offers
Opinion poll

Who was the better Springboks lock?

Bakkies Botha

Victor Matfield

Vote Result

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content