Lions XV

Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis attempts to second guess Warren Gatland and name the Lions Test team.

By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC.   Last Updated: 19/06/13 11:45am

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The phoney war is now over, with the real conflict set to get underway at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.

A tough job for Gatland

After six warm up games - featuring five wins and a loss to the Brumbies - the first Test against Australia is now fast approaching.

In those six matches, though, head coach Warren Gatland and his backroom staff will have seen enough to make the final decisions over the players they want to take the fight to the Wallabies.

Gatland will confirm his line-up in the early hours of Thursday - and ahead of the announcement Sky Sports rugby union writer Tony Curtis attempts to second guess the selections.

15 Leigh Halfpenny

The Wales full-back has carried his scintillating form from the Six Nations into the tour. The 24-year-old has racked up 65 points already - including a record 30-point haul against the Waratahs - and looks to be the complete player.

14 Alex Cuthbert

The Wales winger gets his chance on the flank in the absence of Tommy Bowe. Cuthbert has scored three tries so far on the tour and showed some glimpses of his quality, while he will want to make amends for a shaky display against the Reds.

13 Brian O'Driscoll

Arguably the one player the Wallabies were hoping would be missing, O'Driscoll has recovered from "feeling sore". O'Driscoll has looked class during the tour so far, scoring three tries in his two appearances.

12 Jonathan Davies

Although the Lions insisted that all places were up for grabs, the combination of O'Driscoll and Jamie Roberts was always likely to be the midfield pairing. However Davies, who has been in superb form, now looks set to profit from Roberts' injury.

11 George North

Like compatriots Halfpenny and Davies, North has put in some eye-catching displays - that was until he tweaked his hamstring against a Combined Country XV. He has undergone intensive treatment and should line up against the Wallabies.

10 Jonny Sexton

The Ireland fly-half looks to have won his personal duel with Owen Farrell to start the first Test. Sexton's ability to unlock the attacking potential in the back division has earned him his chance, while he has also crossed for two tries of his own.

9 Mike Phillips

There had been fears over the Wales scrum-half's knee injury, however the combative Phillips will be fit to go head to head with Will Genia. He plays like an extra flanker and has formed a good understanding with Sexton.

1 Mako Vunipola

The England prop initially seemed likely to be used as an impact player off the bench however he is set to now start. Vunipola has impressed every time he has taken to the field - with only Justin Tipuric having made more tackles on the tour.

2 Tom Youngs

Another player who has forced his way into the Test reckoning. Richard Hibbard appeared to be the favourite to start prior to the tour however Youngs has earned his chance after some impressive displays in the loose and an improved accuracy in the lineout.

3 Adam Jones

The Wales tighthead will relish pitting his skills against the Australia scrum. Dan Cole has stated a strong case for a start however Jones remains the preferred pick. There is nothing flashy about Jones, he just gets stuck into the set-piece.

4 Alun-Wyn Jones

The Wales lock has faced intense competition from Geoff Parling and Richie Gray however he ended doubts over his possible inclusion with a giant performance against the Waratahs. He tackled hard and carried well to force his way into the side.

5 Paul O'Connell

The Irishman will make his seventh successive Test appearance for the Lions, although Gatland has wrapped him in cotton wool on tour for the battle with the Wallabies. In his limited appearances, O'Connell has made a big impact, particularly at the breakdown.

6 Tom Croft

The back-row selection will have caused the biggest headache, however Croft looks to have seen off the challenges of Dan Lydiate and Sean O'Brien. Croft's ability to open up defences and his lineout skills earn him his place.

7 Sam Warburton

Justin Tipuric and O'Brien both impressed in the No 7 while Warburton was sidelined but in truth was there any real doubt over the captain's inclusion? A class operator, he shook off the rust to impress against the Waratahs.

8 Jamie Heaslip

It has been an intriguing battle for the No 8 jersey but the Irishman has just done enough to edge out Toby Faletau. Heaslip has provided more dynamism to the forward play, though, making 177m from 46 carries, while he has weighed in with 28 tackles.

Replacements

16 Richard Hibbard
17 Alex Corbisiero
18 Dan Cole
19 Geoff Parling
20 Sean O'Brien
21 Conor Murray
22 Owen Farrell
23 Rob Kearney

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