British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland opts for Alex Corbisiero to face Australia
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 20/06/13 3:18pm
British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has included Alex Corbisiero in his starting XV to face Australia.
The England loosehead only teamed up with the tourists after Cian Healy was ruled out with an ankle injury - with Gethin Jenkins also heading home at the same time.
Those injuries appeared to open the door for Mako Vunipola, one of the stars on the tour to date, to line up against the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday.
However with the weather set to play a part at the Suncorp Stadium, Corbisiero gets the nod because of his strength in the scrum.
Corbisiero will partner compatriot Tom Youngs and Wales tighthead Adam Jones in the front-row - with the Lions looking to gain the advantage up front.
Vunipola is included on the bench, however there is no place in the match-day squad for either Sean O'Brien or Justin Tipuric - despite both impressing in the tour games.
Captain Sam Warburton, Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip will start in the back row, with Dan Lydiate providing cover among the replacements.
As expected Paul O'Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones will provide experience in the second row, while there are no surprises in back division - with injuries hampering selection.
Jamie Roberts, Manu Tuilagi and Tommy Bowe all miss out through injury, so Alex Cuthbert and Jonathan Davies get their chances alongside Leigh Halfpenny, Brian O'Driscoll, the fit-again George North, Jonny Sexton and Mike Phillips.
Sean Maitland is preferred on the bench to Stuart Hogg, Simon Zebo and Rob Kearney, though.
Gatland said: "After six matches we have arrived at the first 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."
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 1 Alex Corbisiero, 2 Tom Youngs, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 5 Paul O'Connell, 6 Tom Croft, 7 Sam Warburton, 8 Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland