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Lions drop O'Driscoll for decider

03rd July 2013 05:01

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Alun Wyn Jones Lions Captain2

Skipper: Alun-Wyn Jones

Alun-Wyn Jones has been named British and Irish Lions captain for Saturday's deciding Test against Australia in Sydney, in a team that features six changes.

Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll, expected by many to over take the captaincy after Sam Warburton suffered a tour-ending hamstring injury, was left out of the matchday 23 altogether in a huge call by coach Warren Gatland.

Wales duo Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies have been paired in the centres with the former selected after missing the first two Tests with a hamstring problem.

The starting XV is made up of 10 Wales players, three from Ireland and two from England.

Irish loose forward Sean O'Brien and English prop Alex Corbisiero are joined by Welshmen Richard Hibbard, Toby Faletau and Mike Phillips as the other changes in the starting XV.

Scotland lock Richie Gray, Wales flanker Justin Tipuric and England centre Manu Tuilagi are the new faces on the bench.

Faletau comes in at number eight for Ireland's Jamie Heaslip and Phillips, who played in the first Test win but was rested for the second Test defeat because of concerns about his knee, returns at scrum-half in place of England's Ben Youngs.

O'Brien replaces Warburton at openside flanker in a muscular new-look back row.

O'Brien replaces Warburton at openside while loosehead prop Corbisiero returns after missing the second Test with a calf injury, resulting in Mako Vunipola's demotion to the bench. Hibbard is picked at hooker for his first Test start of the tour with Tom Youngs named among the replacements.

O'Driscoll, sole survivor from the tour against the Wallabies in 2001, took his Lions Test tally to eight in the opening two games this year. The 2005 captain, he has yet to win a series with the Lions and this is the first time he has been dropped. Tuilagi is preferred to cover the backline.

"It all comes down to Saturday - the winner takes all. We know we can leave nothing in the tank and that only a complete performance will get us across the line," said Gatland.

"Picking this team was not easy and ultimately, with several players available after recovering from injury, the head overruled the heart in many selection decisions.

"Brian O'Driscoll is a great player and has had a wonderful career but for the final Test in Sydney we just felt Jamie Roberts' presence offered us something more."

Gatland was the first coach to pick O'Driscoll for an international match way back in 1999 and he has now become the first one to drop him 14 years later.

"We told him this morning and he was obviously disappointed, as anyone would be. But he appreciated the fact that he was spoken to before the announcement," said the coach.

"It's the first time that any coach has had that decision with him in 15 years of rugby. It's not easy for that to be the first time, but he's still going to be very important for us for the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership.

"It wasn't about leadership - it was about picking what we felt was the best team.

"Alun-Wyn gets his opportunity on Saturday. He leads from the front and he's been outstanding in the lead up games and was one of the first names on the sheet when he picked the team for the first two Tests."

British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones (c), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi.

Date: Saturday, July 6
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Kick-off: 20.00 AEST (11.00 BST, 10.00 GMT)
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Craig Joubert (South Africa)