Tour captain Paul O’Connell will lead the British and Irish Lions for the third time when they tackle the Sharks in game four on their 10-match South African safari in Durban on Wednesday.
Rugby 365 reports that Head coach Ian McGeechan, describing the encounter against the Sharks and Saturday’s showdown with Western Province as “critical”, on Monday took another step towards finding his Test selection when he named the side to tackle the Currie Cup champion Sharks.
Tour manager Gerald Davies revealed that only one player was not available for selection.
“We are now halfway through the provincial matches, prior to the First Test [in Durban on June 20] and the important factor is that the Lions are unbeaten,” Davies said.
“The next challenge is the Sharks in Durban.
“The selected team will want to ensure that the 100 percent playing record is maintained with a victory at the stadium which is also the venue of the first Test. ”
McGeechan said he was “delighted” that only one player is unavailable for selection.
“The players and the medical staff have managed the injuries that have been sustained in a very professional manner,” the head coach said.
“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.
“Those players are captain Paul O’Connell, Lee Byrne, Shane Williams, Jamie Roberts and David Wallace. Paul will start with his third different second row partner in Alun-Wyn Jones, while we also have new starting partnerships in the back three, the halfbacks 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 back row of Jamie Heaslip, David Wallace and Tom Croft that have played together on tour in the Golden Lions match,” added McGeechan.
British & Irish Lions: 15 Lee Byrne (Ospreys/Wales), 14 Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales), 13 Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland), 12 Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), 11 Luke Fitzgerald (Leinster/Ireland) , 10 Ronan O’Gara (Munster/Ireland), 9 Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales), 8 Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland), 7 David Wallace (Munster/Ireland), 6 Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England), 5 Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland – captain), 4 Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), 3 Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), 2 Lee Mears (Bath/England), 1 Gethin Jenkins (Cardiff Blues/Wales).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales), 17 Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England), 18 Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England), 19 Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England), 20 Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland), 21 Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England), 22 Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales).
Date: Wednesday, June 10
Venue: Absa Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referee: Wayne Barnes (England), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)