TOMMY BOWE has described his miracle comeback as "surreal" after being selected in the Lions side to take on Australia in Saturday's second test in Melbourne.
Bowe, who started all three Tests in South Africa in 2009, broke his hand three weeks ago but has made an astonishing recovery after undergoing surgery to repair the damage.
The 29-year-old will wear a hurling glove for protection and revealed that he faced intensive physiotherapy to put himself in contention for Saturday.
"To have fractured my hand and still be here and now going into one of the biggest matches of my career feels pretty surreal," Bowe said, "I feel fully primed and ready to go.
"I've been having physio three to four times a day and have been consistently icing my hand. It's been a pretty frantic regime but it's amazing how good my hand feels. I know I am capable of getting myself back up to match speed pretty quickly."
Coach Warren Gatland has made five changes in total for Saturday's clash in Melbourne, with Ben Youngs and Dan Lydiate also promoted to the starting XV.
Youngs replaces scrum-half Mike Phillips, and Lydiate is preferred ahead of blindside flanker Tom Croft, who must also settle for a place among the replacements.
Completing the new arrivals are loosehead prop Mako Vunipola and lock Geoff Parling, who have profited from injuries to Alex Corbisiero and Paul O'Connell.
Seán O'Brien must be content with a place on the bench, where he's also joined by Conor Murray, but Gatland indicated O'Brien may well have a role to play.
"We have explosiveness coming off the bench that Tom Croft and Seán O'Brien give us," said Gatland.
"We're really happy with the quality on the bench."
L Halfpenny (Wales); T Bowe (Ireland), B O'Driscoll (Ireland), J Davies (Wales), G North (Wales); J Sexton (Ireland), B Youngs (England); M Vunipola (England), T Youngs (England), A Jones (Wales), A-W Jones (Wales), G Parling (England), D Lydiate (Wales), S Warburton (Wales, capt), J Heaslip (Ireland).
Replacements: R Hibbard (Wales), R Grant (Scotland), D Cole (England), T Croft (England), S O'Brien (Ireland), C Murray (Ireland), O Farrell (England), A Cuthbert (Wales).