Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 26 October 2014

Zebo to make Lions debut

Ireland back Simon Zebo, pictured, will line up on the left wing in a side skippered by flanker Sam Warburton

Simon Zebo will make his British and Irish Lions debut in Saturday's clash against the New South Wales Waratahs.

The Ireland back, who only arrived in Australia on Tuesday, will line up on the left wing in a side skippered by flanker Sam Warburton. Full-back Rob Kearney, meanwhile, is set for his first appearance of the trip. He has been named on the bench after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who is favourite for the Test number 10 slot against Australia in Brisbane next week, makes the starting line-up, having recovered from a tight hamstring. And the pack this weekend has a Test team look about it, led by Warburton, Ireland lock Paul O'Connell, Wales prop Adam Jones and Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip.

"It would be great to remain unbeaten and take that momentum into the first Test," Lions head 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.

"This match, the fourth of our lead-up matches in Australia, will assist in this process. 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 have so far scored 214 points and 28 tries in four games, starting with a romp against the Barbarians in Hong Kong, followed by further cruises past Western Force and a Combined Country XV. Their only serious test so far has been against Queensland Reds, a game the Lions won 22-12 despite being outscored 2-1 on tries.

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

British and Irish Lions team to play New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday: L Halfpenny (Wales); S Maitland (Scotland), J Davies (Wales), J Roberts (Wales), S Zebo (Ireland); J Sexton (Ireland), M Phillips (Wales); M Vunipola (England), T Youngs (England), A Jones (Wales), A-W Jones (Wales), P O'Connell (Ireland) T Croft (England), S Warburton (Wales, capt), J Heaslip (Ireland).

Replacements: R Hibbard (Wales), A Corbisiero (England), D Cole (England), G Parling (England), D Lydiate (Wales), B Youngs (England), O Farrell (England), R Kearney (Ireland).

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