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Jones to lead Lions in deciding test vs Australia

Brian O’Driscoll has been dropped leaving Welsh lock Alun Wyn Jones to captain a powerful British and Irish Lions team featuring six changes to the starting line-up for Saturday’s third and decisive test against Australia.

Published: 03rd July 2013 10:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd July 2013 11:08 AM   |  A+A-

Alun-Wyn Jones1AP

Brian O'Driscoll has been discarded as center and prospective captain as Warren Gatland made six changes to his British and Irish Lions starting lineup and included 10 Welshmen in his XV for the series-deciding third test against Australia.

Welsh lock Alun-Wyn Jones will stand in as captain on Saturday for Sam Warburton, who was ruled out after tearing his left hamstring in the 16-15 loss to Australia last weekend. Sean O'Brien was elevated to the starting lineup to replace Warburton on the openside flank.

With the Lions' first series win since 1997 on the line, Gatland made sweeping changes to the 23-man squad on Wednesday, and will rely heavily on players from his Welsh Six Nations-winning team.

Toby Faletau will make his first start of the series at No. 8, Jamie Roberts overcame a hamstring injury to replace O'Driscoll at outside center and Mike Phillips returns at scrumhalf after missing the second test with a sore knee.

O'Driscoll, who is making his fourth Lions tour, started at outside center in the first two tests and had been widely tipped to take over as captain in Warburton's absence.

But Gatland said the "head overruled the heart" in many of the selections for the test at Sydney's Olympic stadium.

"Brian O'Driscoll is a great player and has had a wonderful career but for the final test in Sydney we just felt Jamie Roberts' presence offered us something more," Gatland said. "We think we picked the best team to win on Saturday."

The selections add some bulk to the Loins backline with Roberts, who missed the first two tests, joining Welsh teammate Jonathan Davies in the midfield and England center Manu Tuilagi on the bench.

"Brian was disappointed, but he appreciated that he was spoken to before the team announcement," Gatland said. "It's the first time that a coach has ever made the decision with him in 15 years of rugby.

"Jamie is back fit and has been given the nod in terms of his partnership with Davies."

The 34-year-old O'Driscoll has played 125 tests for Ireland and eight for the Lions and is one of the most respected players in the rugby, but has never won a series with the combined British and Irish team.

He made a blockbusting debut for the Lions as a 22-year-old center in 2001, when he was instrumental in the Lions opening the series with an emphatic victory in Brisbane before the Australians rebounded to win the next two tests and clinch the series.

In other changes to the starting XV, England prop Alex Corbisiero recovered after missing the second test with a calf muscle injury, resulting in Mako Vunipola's demotion to the bench, while Welsh hooker Richard Hibbard replaced Tom Youngs.

British and Irish Lions: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Jonathan Davies (Wales), George North (Wales), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Mike Phillips (Wales); Toby Faletau (Wales) Sean O'Brien (Ireland), Dan Lydiate (Wales) Geoff Parnell (England), Alun-Wyn Jones (Wales, captain), Adam Jones (Wales), Richard Hibbard (Wales) Alex Corbisiero (England). Reserves: Tom Youngs (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Dan Cole (England), Richie Gray (Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Conor Murray (Ireland), Owen Farrell (England), Manu Tuilagi (England).



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