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Wounded pride from past mistakes can inspire Gatland's men to maul young Wallabies


Lions Alex Corbisiero Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

Lions Alex Corbisiero Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

Lions Alex Corbisiero Picture: David Davies/PA Wire

The time has come for the talking to end and the playing to tell the only tale that matters: will it be the Wallabies or the Lions?

Ireland will provide four starters in Brian O'Driscoll, Jonathan Sexton, Paul O'Connell and Jamie Heaslip with two others, Tommy Bowe and Cian Healy, losing out to the misfortune of injury rather than the heat of competition.

Heaslip has edged out his challenger Toby Faletau as a two-tour Test starter at number eight for his work-rate and his details in and around the contact area.

The advantage of experience has made all the difference for the current Irish captain as he has won favour from Faletau's national coach and Lions head coach Warren Gatland. Heaslip's standing in the game has been confirmed.

Sadly, there is no place among the reserves for Sean O'Brien or Rob Kearney, as Gatland has gone for the safety-first defensive solidity of Dan Lydiate over O'Brien – this is hardly an impact decision – and the versatility of Sean Maitland to cover the back three.

In total, there will be eight new caps: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, George North, Sexton, Alex Corbisiero, Tom Youngs and captain Sam Warburton.


Coach Warren Gatland has laid his cards out on the table where the selection of Corbisiero, more than any other, reveals the game-plan.

England's Mako Vunipola has looked every inch the Test option since the demise of Healy, except at scrum time. This is why the lax Adam Jones has also won his tussle with Dan Cole.

"A lot of players were rewarded for their performance last Saturday against the Waratahs. That was an extremely positive performance and a lot of the side is made up from that team," stated Gatland.

"I've no doubt that (Australia head coach) Robbie Deans has looked at Mako technically at scrum time so him coming off the bench will give us a huge amount of impetus.

"We think that will be a big strength. Technically, Alex is probably a little bit sounder, and we feel we've potentially got a little bit of an edge there."

While Gatland has had to gather together a disparate group of players and mould them into a cohesive unit, Deans has had his own problems.

Quade Cooper still resides outside the magic circle of trust and Kurtley Beale is limited to the replacement bench.

Israel Folau makes his international debut on the right wing and James O'Connor will start at fly-half where he has played just a handful of first-class matches.

The pick of Berrick Barnes at full-back speaks of a conservative game- plan, kicking long from inside their half and using Christian Lealiifano at inside centre as a foil for O'Connor.

Blindside Ben Mowen joins Folau and Lealiifano on his debut in what is a back row balanced by groundhog Michael Hooper and big ball carrier Wycliff Palu.


"We've witnessed the Lions play. We've obviously built our game and we've built our game pretty much around what we bring to the table. We've concentrated on the things we can influence," said Deans.

"One of the advantages that Israel has is that they've never faced him previously. They will have witnessed what he's capable of and they'll be wanting to limit that.

"He's a bloke that makes things happen when he gets on the ball. And it's fully our intention to get the ball in his hands.

"Christian's a very well-rounded player.

"He's had another year of Super Rugby and he's been a big part of the emergence of the Brumbies. He's opened up the edges of the field and he's also got a huge work-rate.

"Benny is a very experienced player now at Super Rugby level. He's led (the Brumbies), he's equipped and he's ready to go."

The fact that the Lions have played six matches and are built around the experience of a core of players who know what it is like to lose Test series in the famous red jersey could just give them the edge.

Australia: B Barnes; I Folau, A Ashley-Cooper, C Lealiifano, D Ioane; J O'Connor, W Genia; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, K Douglas, J Horwill (capt), B Mowen, M Hooper, W Palu.

The Lions: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, B O'Driscoll, J Davies, G North; J Sexton, M Phillips; A Corbisiero, T Youngs, A Jones, AW Jones, P O'Connell, T Croft, S Warburton (capt), J Heaslip.

Verdict: The Lions