Corbisiero starts in first British & Irish Lions Test

Alex Corbisiero will be taking a one year sabbatical

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has named his first Test team to face Australia’s Wallabies with eight new Test Lions including the surprise selection of Alex Corbisiero.

The team will be captained by Sam Warburton and features eight players from Gatland’s Six Nations champion team in the Lions’ starting XV.

“I don’t think it’s about a national thing,” said Head coach Gatland, a New Zealander who was picked to coach the Lions on the basis of his success with the Wales national team. “It’s about the Lions. Whoever makes the makeup of it is irrelevant to me.”

“We’ve looked at just picking the best possible team that we can to win the first test.”

In the backs Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Jonathan Davies and Jonathan Sexton all make their Lions Test debuts, while experience is provided by Brian O’Driscoll and Mike Philips, who have nine Lions Tests between them.

The forward pack contains a wealth of Lions Test experience with Jamie Heaslip, Tom Croft, Paul O’Connell, Alun Wyn Jones and Adam Jones sharing 17 Tests.

Loose-head prop Corbisiero, who joined the tour as a replacement, also makes his debut along with Warburton and hooker Tom Youngs.

British and Irish Lions Tour Manager Andy Irvine said,”We are now at the business end of the tour. You can feel the excitement and commitment within the squad now that we are back in Brisbane and the 1st Test is just days away.

“I congratulate all the players who are making their Lions Test debut on Saturday. Playing against the Wallabies for the Lions is a major milestone in a player’s career and I am confident they will all uphold the history and tradition of the Lions by giving their all.”

On the selections Coach Gatland said, “After six matches we have arrived at the 1st Test and have selected our strongest possible side with only Jamie Roberts,Tommy Bowe and Manu Tuilagi unavailable for selection.

“The Wallabies at home pose a huge challenge but the Test team contains 20 of the players that played against the Waratahs in what was our best match to date. We now have a couple of more days of match preparation to ensure we improve again on that performance.”

Gatland said Mako Vunipola was unlucky to miss out on a starting spot in the front row, but Corbisiero was a technically better option and “Mako will make a big impact for us coming off the bench.”

The selection indicates Gatland wants big, powerful backs to overrun Australia. With injuries and changes, he thinks O’Driscoll and Davies will offer more subtleties and variety against the Wallabies.

The loss to the Brumbies was a “blip for us,” Gatland said, explaining that the Lions didn’t play to the wet and slippery conditions.

“We’ve come here to show the Australian public that we can play rugby. We’ve played some great rugby so far,” he said.

“In the last two Saturdays against the Reds and the Waratahs, a lot of players in the side have been building that momentum. We feel very positive where we are. We feel like we’ve got a few hit-outs under our belts; given us that match-hardened edge we’ve been looking for.”

British and Irish Lions

15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
14. Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland)
12. Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales)
11. George North (Scarlets/Wales)
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland)
9. Mike Phillips (Bayonne/Wales)
1. Alex Corbisiero (London Irish/England)
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England)
3. Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
5. Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
7. Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues/Wales, capt)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)

16. Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales)
17. Makovina Vunipola (Saracens/England)
18. Dan

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