MUNSTER scrum-half Conor Murray has been named among the replacements for the Lions series-deciding Test match with Australia in Sydney this Saturday (11.05am).
Murray, who featured as a second half replacement in the Lions defeat to Australia on Saturday, will act as back-up to the recalled Mike Phillips for this weekend’s third Test. Murray is included on the replacement bench ahead of Ben Youngs, one of two players who has dropped out of the match-day squad.
Three Irish players have been selected to start this weekend’s game. Tommy Bowe will start on the wing, with Jonathan Sexton retained at out-half. Sean O’Brien has been named in the back-row.
However, the main talking point from the selection is the omission of Brian O’Driscoll. O’Driscoll was the favourite to lead the Lions in the final Test after Sam Warburton was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Instead, the Leinster centre has been omitted from the 23 with Alun-Wyn Jones named captain.
The O’Driscoll-Jonathan Davies midfield partnership used for the first two Tests has been broken up, with Jamie Roberts picked at inside centre following his return from a hamstring injury.
Davies moves to outside centre while Sean O’Brien, Alex Corbisiero, Richard Hibbard, Toby Faletau and scrum-half Phillips are promoted to a starting XV showing six changes to the side beaten 16-15 in Melbourne.
Speaking of his decision to leave O’Driscoll out of the squad, Gatland said: “Obviously, Brian (O’Driscoll) was disappointed, as anyone is, but he appreciated the fact that he was spoken to before the announcement. It’s the first time that any coach has had that decision with him in 15 years of rugby. It’s not easy for that to be the first time, but he’s still going to be very important for us for the next 72 hours in terms of his experience and leadership. He’s been involved in the first two Tests, but Jamie’s back fit and Jamie’s been given the nod in terms of that partnership with Jon Davies in the midfield.”
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny. 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 1 Alex Corbisiero, 2 Richard Hibbard, 3 Adam Jones, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones (capt), 5 Geoff Parling, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Sean O’Brien, 8 Toby Faletau. Replacements: 16 Mako Vunipola, 17 Tom Youngs, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi.