O’Driscoll to lead Lions against Force

Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O’Driscoll will lead the British and Irish Lions in the first of their nine matches in Australia, standing in for injured captain Sam Warburton against the Western Force on Wednesday.

Lions coach Warren Gatland announced his squad Monday, hours after landing in Perth, and opted not to select any players who started the 59-8 win over the Barbarians in Hong Kong on Saturday in his starting XV to take on the Perth-based Force.

“There were a lot of positives to come out of the first match in Hong Kong,” Gatland said. “Our fitness and application were excellent and we operated well in the set pieces.

“That said, it was our first match and naturally we were a bit rusty, and there is definitely room for improvement.”

O’Driscoll, who is making his fourth Lions tour, will direct the traffic from midfield in a backline with a distinct Irish flavor. His Ireland teammates Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton will combine in the halves, and Tommy Bowe has been selected on one wing. Welshmen Leigh Halfpenny and George North will play fullback and wing, and England’s Manu Tuilagai will partner O’Driscoll in the centers.

Warburton is still recovering from the knee injury which has sidelined him for the first two games of the tour, but reportedly could be fit for Saturday’s match in Brisbane against the Queensland Reds.

The Lions, who haven’t won a series since 1997, start the three-test series against Australia on June 22 in Brisbane.

Lineup: Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Manu Tuilagi, George North, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray; Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Tom Croft, Ian Evans, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Cole, Rory Best, Cian Healy. Reserves: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Matt Stevens, Geoff Parling, Toby Faletau, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Sean Maitland.