British & Irish Lions
O'Connell leads strong Lions side
June 8, 2009

Paul O'Connell will lead the British & Irish Lions against the Sharks in Durban on Wednesday as his side look to bounce back from a disappointing performance in their 26-24 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

O'Connell forms a new second-row partnership alongside Alun-Wyn Jones, and is one of four players to retain their place from Saturday. Wingers Shane Williams and Luke Fitzgerald and fullback Lee Byrne are the other players to back-up, while England centre Riki Flutey has returned from injury and starts on the bench.

Mike Phillips returns at scrum-half, forming a new partnership with Ronan O'Gara. The centre partnership of Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll is restored after their stunning performance against the Golden Lions.

In the back-row, Tom Croft, David Wallace and Jamie Heaslip get another chance to press their Test claims as a unit, with Welsh openside Martyn Williams the only player unavailable with a shoulder injury. In the front-row, Gethin Jenkins, Lee Mears and Adam Jones pack down together for the first time.

"I'm delighted that, as we head into the fourth match, we only have one player (Martyn Williams - left shoulder) who is unavailable for selection," said Lions boss Ian McGeechan. "The players and the medical staff have managed the injuries that have been sustained in a very professional manner.

"This is crucial as we enter matches against two of South Africa's strongest provinces in the Sharks and Western Province in the space of four days. This is reflected by the fact that four starting players from the Cheetahs match will back up against the Sharks, while five players are starting their third match of the tour - Paul O'Connell, Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Jamie Roberts and David Wallace.

"Paul will start with his third different second row partner, Alun-Wyn Jones, while we also have new starting partnerships in the back three, the half-backs and in the front row.

"The next two matches are obviously critical in the development of the Test side. While we have these new starting partnerships for the Sharks match we also have a centre pairing in Jamie Roberts and Brian O'Driscoll, and a backrow of Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace and Tom Croft that have played together on tour in the Golden Lions match."

British & Irish Lions: L Byrne (Ospreys & Wales); S Williams (Ospreys & Wales), B O'Driscoll (Leinster & Ireland), J Roberts (Cardiff Blues & Wales), L Fitzgerald (Leinster & Ireland); R O'Gara (Munster & Ireland), M Phillips (Ospreys & Wales); G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues & Wales), L Mears (Bath & England), A Jones (Ospreys & Wales), A-W Jones (Ospreys & Wales), P O'Connell (Munster & Ireland) (capt), T Croft (Leicester & England), D Wallace (Munster & Ireland), J Heaslip (Leinster & Ireland).

Replacements: M Rees (Scarlets & Wales), P Vickery (Wasps & England), S Shaw (Wasps & England), J Worsley (Wasps & England), M Blair (Edinburgh & Scotland), R Flutey (Wasps & England), L Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues & Wales).


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