Young Cardiff Blues star Leigh Halfpenny will get his first taste of British and Irish Lions rugby this weekend after he was named in the starting team for the touring parties match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this weekend.
Tour Manager, Gerald Davies, and Head Coach Ian McGeechan, made the announcement on Friday afternoon, just two days after watching the Lions destroy the Golden Lions 74-10 in Johannesburg.
Rugby 365 reports that Ireland lock and tour captain Paul O’Connell also returns to the team, playing alongside his countrymen Donncha O’Callaghan in the second row.
Speaking about the lineup, Davies said he was looking forward to seeing a number of regular partnerships in action against the Cheetahs and challenged the squad to continue the good work done by their teammates during the week.
“The starting XV to play the Cheetahs is an interesting one with club and country combinations in many areas.
“The boys who played against the Golden Lions put down a marker in terms of the way we want to play and I know those playing against the Cheetahs will be very keen to keep the momentum going and produce another strong Lions performance.”
Commenting on the team selection Head Coach Ian McGeechan said: “With the selection of Donncha O’Callaghan, Leigh Halfpenny and Luke Fitzgerald in the starting XV it means that all the squad players will have taken to the field according to plan. We also have new arrival Gordon D’Arcy on the bench which gives him a chance to get straight into the action.”
“Although there are no players backing up from the starting XV against the Golden Lions several of the replacements who saw action in that match have now been selected for their first start. For the Cheetahs match Andy Powell, Stephen Ferris, Euan Murray, Ross Ford, Harry Ellis and James Hook are all in the starting XV team for the first time.”
“The team includes an all Welsh back three, an Irish combination in midfield and a Munster second row pairing. We are also are continuing to build partnerships and combinations among the players from the four nations and this is reflected in the front row where Scottish teammates Euan Murray and Ross Ford will pack down in the front row alongside Andrew Sheridan, and the backrow where three players from three different nations will play alongside each other.”
British & Irish Lions: 15. Lee Byrne, 14 Leigh Halfpenny, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Luke Fitzgerald, 11 Shane Williams, 10 James Hook, 9 Harry Ellis, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Joe Worsley, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Paul O’Connell (captain), 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Andrew Sheridan
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Adam Jones, 18 Simon Shaw, 19 Nathan Hines, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Ronan O’Gara, 22 Gordon D’Arcy