Tuesday 17 October 2017

Simon Zebo to start for Lions against Waratahs

Simon Zebo will make his first Lions appearance on Saturday. Yesterday, the Munster winger took to the pool for a recovery session alongside Ireland team-mate SeanO’Brien
Simon Zebo will make his first Lions appearance on Saturday. Yesterday, the Munster winger took to the pool for a recovery session alongside Ireland team-mate SeanO’Brien
Simon Zebo looks during the Lions game against Combined Country

Conor George in Sydney

SIMON ZEBO has been named in the Lions team to face Michael Cheika’s Waratahs at the Allianz Stadium on Saturday.

Zebo only arrived in Australia on Tuesday evening but has acclimatised to his new environs very quickly and is set to make an immediate impact with a place on the left wing. Rob Kearney will also make his first appearance of the Tour, albeit from the bench.

Kearney joined Jonathan Sexton, who starts the game at out-half, in a full kicking session in glorious sunshine at Sydney’s North Oval ground this morning. Neither showed any ill-effects from their recent lay-offs with hamstring complaints.

Paul O’Connell and Jamie Heaslip are also included in the starting team but Brian O’Driscoll is rested after his exertions on Tuesday night.

O’Driscoll is “a bit sore” from the game but Lions’ coach Warren Gatland was quick to insist that his veteran centre is not a concern ahead of the opening Test on June 22 in Brisbane.

“Brian did the splits at the end of the game during the week and he just woke up a little bit sore. The thing with Brian is that we’ve got to make sure we manage him,” said Gatland.

“We spoke about that with him specifically before the tour, saying that we didn’t really want him to play more than one game a week and at any stage if his body was a little bit sore we’d make sure that we keep him fresh and didn’t tire him out. “

Gatland declined to identify them but did acknowledge that there are a couple of injury issues in the camp. George North is understood to be nursing a hamstring injury but the good news is the return to fitness of Kearney, Sexton and Owen Farrell.

The Lions play the Waratahs on Saturday and the Brumbies of Tuesday after which the coaches will select their Test team. Gatland insisted they haven’t yet decided on the likely starting line-up but did admit that their hands may be forced in one or two cases.

“We expect that one or two players will come back to fitness next week but too late to be considered for the opening Test. We haven’t even spoken about the Test team yet and won’t do so until after the Brumbies’ game on Tuesday,” Gatland added.

The Lions enter their fifth match of the tour unbeaten following wins against the Barbarians in Hong Kong, Western Force, Queensland Reds and Combined Country. Tour captain Sam Warburton will lead the team.

LIONS team v Waratahs: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Simon Zebo (Munster/Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland), Mike Phillips (Bayonne/Wales), Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues/Wales, capt), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland).

REPLACEMENTS: Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales), Alex Corbisiero (London Irish/England), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England), Dan Lydiate (Dragons/Wales), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England), Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland)

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