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British And Irish Lions Arrive In Australia

posted 3 Jun 2013, 05:51 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 3 Jun 2013, 05:51 ]

The British and Irish Lions squad play their first match with Western Force, preparing for their test series against the Wallabies.

 PERTHWESTERN AUSTRALIAAUSTRALIA (JUNE 03, 2013)(AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION -  The British and Irish Lions squad arrived in Australia on Monday (June 3) and already have some injury concerns before the opening match of their tour - against Western Force on Wednesday (June 5).

Head coach Warren Gatland has decided Brian O'Driscoll will captain the team for the Perth match as tour skipper Sam Warburton is still working on a knee injury.

The former Irish captain leads a side featuring seven of his international team mates, including flyhalf Jonny Sexton, hooker Rory Best, winger Tommy Bowe, prop Cian Healy, flanker Sean O'Brien, scrumhalf Connor Murray and number eight Jamie Heaslip.

O'Driscoll's Leinster colleague Rob Kearney, though, is struggling with a worrying hamstring injury which could end the fullback's tour prematurely.

"Rob Kearney is a little bit of a concern for us at the moment to be honest," Gatland told reporters after the team announcement in Perth.

"We are going to see how he responds and so we need to be potentially prepared that the hamstring injury might not heal as quickly as we might like and we have got to put some other potential plans in place," he explained.

Gatland said talk of replacing the fullback, who played in all three tests against South Africa on the last Lions tour in 2009, was premature with adequate cover already in the squad.

Also missing Wednesday's match at Subiaco Oval against Australia's lowest ranked Super Rugby side is Warburton, who continues to rest after an injection to help fix a knee problem.

Gatland said the Wales flanker should be in contention to play in Saturday's match against the Queensland Reds at Lang Park in Brisbane, also the venue for the first test against the Wallabies on June 22.

"We said we were going to keep him out of training for about five days after he had that injection. He has been coming back and doing some of his own training. So the five days was before he was ready to start doing full contact and we're just trying to make sure that everyone's getting the same opportunity and we want the whole squad training, the whole team training together," he said.

The squad touched down in Perth on Monday morning to be greeted by much cooler temperatures than they faced in humid Hong Kong, where they dispatched the Barbarians with ease 59-8 on Saturday.

"Now that we've finally arrived in Australia, you know, we left England on Monday but the tour feels like it has truly begun now we have landed on Australian soil," said O'Driscoll, who captained the ill-fated 2005 Lions tour to New Zealand.

The Irishman will be joined in the centres for Wednesday's clash by Manu Tuilagi, one of three Englishmen in the side along along with prop Dan Cole and flanker Tom Croft. Winger Maitland is the only Scottish representative in the matchday 23.

Halfpenny starts at fullback, Alun Wyn Jones and Ian Evans make up an all Welsh second row withGeorge North aiming to replicate the stand out form of fellow Welsh winger Alex Cuthbert in the Barbarians win.

Cuthbert scored two of the Lions eight tries against the Barbarians and O'Driscoll praised the team display while warning there was little room for error with only five matches before the first test.

"I think we've got a very strong squad and there's huge competition for places so you don't want to have any individual or collective bad performances at this stage. You want to build towards that first test match," O'Driscoll said.

"We were pleased with how we started but we've got to continue building and working hard at training and when we get to games, try to build a bit of ruthlessness about our mentality and our performance," the 34 year old said.

Lions team to play Western Force:

15-Leigh Halfpenny, 14-Tommy Bowe, 13-Brian O'Driscoll (captain), 12-Manu Tuilagi, 11-George North, 10-Jonny Sexton, 9-Conor Murray, 8-Jamie Heaslip; 7-Sean O'Brien, 6-Tom Croft, 5-Ian Evans, 4-Alun Wyn-Jones, 3-Dan Cole, 2-Rory Best, 1-Cian Healey.

Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Mako Vunipola, 18-Matt Stevens, 19-Geoff Parling, 20-Toby Faletau, 21-Ben Youngs, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Sean Maitland.