Melbourne Rebels v British & Irish Lions
Lydiate to lead Lions against Rebels
June 24, 2013
Geoff Parling was withdrawn from the Lions team after the injury to Paul O'Connell © PA Photos
Wales flanker Dan Lydiate will lead the British & Irish Lions against the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday night after the latest injury crisis to hit the squad forced them into a late change.
England lock Geoff Parling was set to lead the Lions into their final midweek clash at AAMI Park but was withdrawn on the eve of the game following an injury to fellow second row Paul O'Connell. Parling looks set to replace O'Connell in the Test side for Saturday's showdown at the Etihad Stadium while Wales lock Ian Evans is promoted from the bench to fill the void in the team that will line-up against the Rebels. England flanker Tom Croft comes on to the bench for Evans.
"I'm over the moon," commented Lydiate. "When Warren Gatland asked me I didn't hesitate to say yes. I'm chuffed to represent the boys as captain and really excited for tomorrow. We flew in this morning and did our team run. Nothing changes really, the calls are the same it's just different voices. It's a massive honour to run out holding Bill the Lion. Saturday was a massive win and tomorrow we have the chance to prove ourselves and keep that momentum going into what will be an even bigger test."
Lydiate, whose captaincy experience has been limited to taking charge of the Newport-Gwent Dragons on a handful of occasions, intends to lead by example. "I won't keep talking, talking gibberish. I'll just try to get my point across - lead as I play," he said. "I'll go out there and play as hard as I can, that's me really. I won't try to over-complicate things and do things I don't usually do."
The late switch follows another change to the original side that saw Ireland and Ulster prop Tom Court drafted onto the replacements' bench for Mako Vunipola, who is being rested as cover for Test prop Alex Corbisiero who is battling a calf injury suffered in the Lions' first Test triumph at the weekend.
Centre Manu Tuilagi is back for his first game since suffering shoulder injury against the Reds back on June 8 and will partner England colleague Brad Barritt in midfield. Rob Kearney is named at fullback, linking with Simon Zebo and Sean Maitland in the back three. Tommy Bowe misses selection but coach Warren Gatland is optimistic the winger will be fit for the second Test. Owen Farrell guides the team at fly-half alongside Conor Murray.
Ryan Grant, Richard Hibbard and Dan Cole are handed starts in the front-row, with Evans alongside Richie Gray in the second row. Lydiate is named at blindside with Sean O'Brien on the other side of the scrum and Toby Faletau providing a physical presence at No.8.
Following the initial announcement, Gatland said: "We've picked a really strong side with guys who were on the bench last night getting a chance to start. We thought it was important to pick a team that can do a job for us following on last night's result.
"There's still a chance for performances to really catch the eye. We won't think about Test selection until after the match. The Brumbies loss was a wake-up call and it will be nice to take more momentum into the second Test."
Tour manager Andy Irvine added: "We are obviously delighted to start the Test series against the Wallabies with a win but this game is very important to us in terms of keeping the momentum going. Those playing on Tuesday have a major part in delivering this and at the same time keeping the pressure on for Test match selection."
Lions: Rob Kearney, Sean Maitland, Manu Tuilagi, Brad Barritt, Simon Zebo, Owen Farrell, Conor Murray; Ryan Grant, Richard Hibbard, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Ian Evans, Dan Lydiate, Sean O'Brien, Toby Faletau
Replacements: Rory Best, Tom Court, Matt Stevens, Tom Croft, Justin Tipuric, Ben Youngs, Billy Twelvetrees, Stuart Hogg
Warren Gatland praises his medical team for getting Tommy Bowe fit for the second Test
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