Waratahs take on British and Irish Lions in Sydney
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter @SkysportsTC. Last Updated: 15/06/13 9:25am
The British and Irish Lions will send out their strongest XV on their 2013 tour as they go up against New South Wales Waratahs at Sydney on Saturday morning.
Although a number of backs are being rested after a gruelling schedule, at least 10 of the line-up to face the Waratahs look likely to run out against Australia in the first Test in seven days.
Warren Gatland and his coaching staff have repeatedly stated that the Test team has not yet been finalised however Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Jonny Sexton, Mike Phillips, Mako Vunipola, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft and Sam Warburton are all well placed to start the first Test - while Tom Youngs and Jamie Heaslip will be looking to cement their claims agains the Waratahs.
Brian O'Driscoll, George North and Alex Cuthbert are all being rested, as is Manu Tuilagi - with the England centre having suffered a 'stinger' injury.
In their absence, Sean Maitland, Jonathan Davies and Simon Zebo - who makes his first start after teaming up with the Lions as cover for the injured Tommy Bowe - will get the chance to impress.
Rob Kearney makes his first appearance of the tour off the bench, with the Ireland full-back having recovered from a hamstring tear.
Alex Corbisiero, who replaced the injured Cian Healy in the tour squad, is named on the bench as he looks to gatecrash the Test line-up.
The Waratahs have been buoyed by the availability of some of their experienced players for the prestigious fixture.
Captain Dave Dennis and Rob Horne have been away with the Wallabies, however they have been cleared to play - while Bernard Foley and Matt Lucas have been released from the Australia Sevens set-up.
Drew Mitchell, who has been capped 63 times, starts at full-back, while fellow international Paddy Ryan is handed the No 3 jersey.
Brendan McKibbin, an uncapped member of the Australia squad that faced Wales in 2012, is at scrum-half - with the Scottish-born 27-year-old having racked up 241 points in 45 Super Rugby appearances.
Cam Crawford, who is second in the try-scoring charts this season with seven, is named on the wing, while Pat McCutcheon has been passed fit to start on the openside flank.
The Waratahs, though, are without Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Israel Folau, who have all stayed with the Wallabies squad, while Tatafu Polota Nau, Greg Peterson, Mitchell Chapman, Sitaleki Timani, Michael Hodge and Lachie Turner are injured.
The match will be the 21st encounter between NSW and the Lions, stretching back to June 2 1888, when the tourists won 18-2.
Since then the Waratahs have picked up four wins and a draw, with their last victory coming in 1959 - an 18-14 success at the Sydney Sports Ground.
The last clash, 12 years ago, saw the Lions run our convincing 41-24 winners at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Waratahs: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Tom Carter, 11 Peter Betham, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 1 Jeremy Tilse, 2 John Ulugia, 3 Paddy Ryan, 4 Will Skelton, 5 Ollie Atkins, 6 Jed Holloway, 7 Pat McCutcheon, 8 Dave Dennis (capt).
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Richard Aho, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Lopeti Timani, 20 AJ Gilbert, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Tom Kingston.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 1 Mako Vunipola, 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 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Rob Kearney.
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