Wednesday 21 March 2018

Irish stars get chance to shine in Lions’ clash with Rebels

Conor George in Brisbane

FOUR Irish players have been included in the Lions team to play the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday night.

Conor Murray, Rob Kearney, Simon Zebo and Sean O’Brien start the game while Ulster’s Rory Best in included among the replacements.

Tommy Bowe has been held back with a view to next Saturday’s second Test match against Australia revealed Lions’ coach Warren Gatland.

“Tommy is good to go. He’s fit and available. We’re just giving it another couple of days for his hand to fully heal,” said Gatland.

Four of the Lions’s replacements from Saturday’s win over Australia - Dan Lydiate, Geoff Parling, Richard Hibbard and Dan Cole – also start. England and Leicester Tigers second row Geoff Parling will captain the side.

“A few of the boys are anxious to play and make amends for some of the performances on Saturday,” said Parling. “Dan Cole was especially anxious to get a chance to put things right.”

Parling’s club-mate Manusamoa Tuilagi makes his return, having not played since sustaining a shoulder injury in the Queensland Reds game. He is joined in the centre by England team-mate Brad Barritt.

O’Brien returns to the No 7 jersey after two runs on the blindside, while fullback Rob Kearney plays his third match of the tour and Owen Farrell starts at fly-half.

Tour Manager Andy Irvine said: “We are obviously delighted to start the Test series against the Wallabies with a win but this game is very important to us in terms of keeping the momentum going. Those playing on Tuesday have a major part in delivering this and at the same time keeping the pressure on for Test match selection.”

The Lions squad leave Brisbane on Monday morning for a week-long stay in Melbourne.

Lions: Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland), Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland),

Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers/England), Brad Barritt (Saracens/England), Simon Zebo (Munster/Ireland), Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland), Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England), Richie Gray (Scotland), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England, capt), Dan Lydiate (Dragons/Wales), Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland), Tangaki Taulupe Faletau (Dragons/Wales).

Replacements: Rory Best (Ulster/Ireland), Makovina Vunipola (Saracens/England), Matt Stevens (Saracens/England), Ian Evans (Ospreys/Wales), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/Wales), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester Rugby/England), Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland).

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