Shanklin happy to wing it

Tom Shanklin will make his British & Irish Lions debut on the wing on Saturday aware his best chance of a Test place lies out wide. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

Tom Shanklin will make his British & Irish Lions debut on the wing on Saturday aware his best chance of a Test place lies out wide.

Shanklin starred at outside centre as Wales won the Grand Slam earlier this year, but he faces immovable competition for the Test 13 jersey given it belongs to Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll.

And while the 25-year-old could also be considered as a dark horse to play inside centre, he wants to lay down a marker for one of the wing positions against Bay of Plenty.

"Clive spoke to me at the airport on the way out and he said: ‘I’m thinking about playing you on the wing. Have you any problems with that?’

"I have none whatsoever. I just want to play for the Lions. If he wants to play me on the wing I am very, very happy to play there.

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"I would rather be looked at as a centre. But the fact I am a 13 – Brian O’Driscoll is a 13 and he will be playing no matter what and he definitely deserves that.

"If they want to play me on the wing then that is fine. I have this opportunity now to play outside the likes of Brian O’Driscoll.

"I have never played outside a player like that before and we are all just looking forward to coming together as one."

Woodward has named Shanklin’s fellow Welshman Gavin Henson at inside centre alongside O’Driscoll in what is perceived to be the likely Test midfield pairing.

Shanklin realises that competition for that spot is also fierce, with Gordon D’Arcy, Will Greenwood and Ollie Smith also in the squad.

Woodward has selected some key partnerships for the game in Rotorua, which promises to be a fierce contest with a Bay of Plenty side fired up to claim what would be a famous victory.

But the Lions will want to steer clear of provocation and work on forging partnerships and cohesion that were missing in the 25-25 draw against Argentina.

Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Martyn Williams form an imposing back row, while Ben Kay and Paul O’Connell get the chance to lay down a marker in the second row.

Dwayne Peel starts at scrum-half with Josh Lewsey at full-back and Mark Cueto, a late inclusion in the squad following Iain Balshaw’s injury, on the opposite wing to Shanklin.

With Gareth Thomas and Jason Robinson yet to join the squad, Cueto and Shanklin have the chance to set the bar high, but there was a time when the Welshman feared he might not make the tour.

"I was a little bit worried when I first injured my leg whether I would be fit enough to come on tour,’ he said.

"I didn’t know how I would react to training but my main worry was whether I could take contact. But I have done all the tests and come through positively."

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