Lions name strong line-up

Simon Zebo (AFP)
Simon Zebo (AFP)

Sydney - Late call-up Simon Zebo will make his debut and Rob Kearney will start on the bench after recovering from injury as the British and Irish Lions named a strong side Thursday to face the NSW Waratahs.

Zebo, the Munster winger who only arrived this week as cover for the injured Tommy Bowe, was picked on the left flank with Leinster fullback Kearney among the replacements for Saturday's game, which is a week before the first Test.

Kearney has yet to play on tour after injuring his hamstring, and he will ease his way back in with Welshman Leigh Halfpenny starting at fullback.

The Irishman played in all three Lions Tests in South Africa four years ago and he is included in a high-quality side a week from the start of the three-Test series against the Wallabies.

Seven of the starting XV were involved in the first Test against the Springboks four years ago in South Africa - Jamie Roberts, Mike Phillips, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft and Jamie Heaslip.

Sam Warburton will lead the side in his second appearance of the tour and he will be hoping to maintain the Lions' unbeaten record so far against a team coached by ex-Leinster and Stade Francais coach Michael Cheika.

"It would be great to remain unbeaten and take that momentum into the first Test," Lions coach Warren Gatland said.

"However, more importantly we are looking to finalise key playing combinations and strengthen our patterns of play during the next two matches.

"To beat the Waratahs we know we have to improve on our strong performance last Saturday against the Reds. This side is more than capable of doing that."

The Lions face the Brumbies in Canberra on Tuesday in their final outing before the start of the Test series.

"The tour has now moved on to Sydney where we face another tough examination in front of a parochial sell-out crowd," tour manager Andy Irvine said.

"The squad has a lot of respect for the Waratahs who have proven down the years to be tough opponents.

"The match represents the final Saturday match prior to the first Test in Brisbane. Naturally, the players know that Test places are still up for grabs and they will be eager to press for selection against the Wallabies."

The Waratahs will be strengthened by the release of Wallaby squad members Dave Dennis and Rob Horne from the team's training camp for Saturday's match.

British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Michael Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip. 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola.

Substitutes: 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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