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British & Irish Lions
Opportunity knocks on Test selection day
Tom Hamilton in Brisbane
June 20, 2013
Three of the Wallabies and their coach Robbie Deans field questions from the media © Getty Images

We have been in Australia since June 3, but it feels like the tour is now starting in earnest. Earlier today, at about midday AEST, British & Irish Lions tour manager Andy Irvine read out the 23 players selected by Warren Gatland to face the Wallabies on Saturday.

There were no audible gasps like last Sunday. when Shane Williams' name was read out in Sydney, but there was an intake of breath from the media (a group significantly larger now we are just a couple of days away from the first Test) when Alex Corbisiero was named as their starting loose-head - his inclusion was the only one I got wrong in my shot at the XV.

He has only been with the side for a fortnight - incidentally, I have completely lost track of time, dates and months with my weekly calendar based around games rather than days - but he has done enough to force his way into selection.

It is an incredible feat for the prop considering in January his London Irish coach Brian Smith described the loose-head's injury as "degenerative". Corbisiero spoke out at the time and said Smith's description was "definitely incorrect", and today he sat in front of the written media talking about his call-up to the Lions Test team for the game against the Wallabies.

Corbisiero has already proven his point in that regard, but there will be a host of other players in the Lions XV still looking to make theirs.

For the Welsh contingent, following eight losses on the bounce against Australia, they will want to get one back over the men in green and gold. Their poor record was mentioned when the original 37-man squad, complete with 14 Welshmen, was named but now it is their chance to prove the doubters wrong.

Tom Croft could have been paralysed when he broke his neck at the end of last season, while Paul O'Connell battled back from injury in the latter part of the campaign to book his place on the plane to Australia. In the front-row, Tom Youngs made his debut for England in November having previously played in the backs for Leicester.

British & Irish Lion Mike Phillips contemplates scoffing a sweet in training, Brisbane, June 20, 2013
It was fun and games for the Lions in training today © Getty Images

In the centres, Brian O'Driscoll is playing in his final Lions tour and he will want to make amends for the previous three series he has been on which all ended in defeat.

But they will not be the only men on the field wanting that all-important first Test win. The Australians named their starting line-up two hours and four minutes before the Lions and they too will want to repay Robbie Deans' faith.

They have included three debutants in the starting line-up while James O'Connor will want to prove he can now be considered a top level Test fly-half. The Lions have already made a song and dance of playing their six warm-up games - but the Australians have been watching on from the comfort of their own camp.

About three hours and 45 minutes after the Lions announced their team for Saturday, three of the Wallabies - Israel Folau, James O'Connor and Ben Mowen - sat alongside coach Robbie Deans in front of the watching press. There was a confidence in the way the players spoke while Deans offered curt and concise answers to the media.

What is blindingly evident, from both camps, is that there will be no quarter given on Saturday.

"We know it is going to be a tough Test match," Deans said. "We intend to bring a fair amount to that, just as the Lions will. It is going to be an epic occasion. For those of us lucky to witness it 2001 was huge.

"I trust that our systems have improved so we won't have as much red in the audience but the occasion itself will be special."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum