Woodward names powerful line-up

British & Irish Lions boss Sir Clive Woodward has gone for size and power but no Jonny Wilkinson in Saturday's clash with the New Zealand Maori. [more]

Lions Australia Tour 2013

British & Irish Lions boss Sir Clive Woodward has gone for size and power but no Jonny Wilkinson in Saturday’s clash with the New Zealand Maori.

The Lions front-row alone – England trio Andrew Sheridan, Steve Thompson and Julian White – weighs in at record 348kg, with second-row giants Simon Shaw and Paul O’Connell providing further bulk.

Prior to this tour the record for the heaviest Lions front row had been set on two occasions on the 1955 trip to South Africa when all-Welsh front row Billy Williams (Swansea), Bryn Meredith (Newport) and Courtney Meredith (Neath) combined to weigh 278kg for the matches against Rhodesia and the fourth Test against the Springboks.

That record has already been beaten twice this year – against Argentina the front row (Graham Rowntree, Shane Byrne, John Hayes) weighed 331kg, while against Bay of Plenty the Gethin Jenkins, Martin Bulloch, Matt Stevens combination weighed 3kg more.

Wilkinson though, remains in the wings as Test team fly-half rival Stephen Jones takes centre stage.

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Wales Grand Slam hero Jones follows Ronan O’Gara and Charlie Hodgson into the Lions number 10 jersey, with Wilkinson’s tour bow seemingly set for Wellington next Wednesday.

While Wilkinson waits, the likes of Sheridan, centre Gordon D’Arcy, scrum-half Matt Dawson and Wales number eight Michael Owen all have golden opportunities to press their Test match claims.

Sheridan’s solitary England cap was gained as a replacement against Canada last autumn but the 26-year-old Sale Sharks forward, renowned as one of English rugby’s physically strongest players, could hardly have been handed a better chance.

"We have a lot of respect for the Maori front-row," said Lions coach Andy Robinson.

"Everybody has been saying that New Zealand forward play in general has not been as it was, but I don’t think that’s been the case.

"I think they have put a lot of attention into their set-plays, and as we saw in the Taranaki game, these guys are very good scrummagers.

"It is going to be a huge battle up front, and it is important to dominate in that area."

Taylor, meanwhile, has recovered from a hamstring injury, and will look to thrust his name into Test back-row contention following Lawrence Dallaglio’s sadly premature tour exit.

"Simon is raring to go," added Robinson. "Having seen the good performances of the back-row over the past two games, we want Simon to perform to that level and put pressure on everybody in fighting for that Test spot."

Woodward fields six of the side that started against Bay of Plenty last weekend, including tour skipper Brian O’Driscoll, while Wales number eight Michael Owen is on bench duty before a flying visit home to be with his wife Lucy for the birth of the couple’s second child.

British & Irish Lions team: J Lewsey (Wasps and England); T Shanklin (Cardiff Blues and Wales), B O’Driscoll (Leinster and Ireland, capt), G D’Arcy (Leinster and Ireland), S Williams (Ospreys and Wales); S Jones (Clermont Auvergne and Wales), M Dawson (Wasps and England); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks and England), S Thompson (Northampton and England), J White (Leicester and England), S Shaw (Wasps and England), P O’Connell (Munster and Ireland), R Hill (Saracens and England), M Williams (Cardiff Blues and Wales), M Owen (Newport Gwent Dragons and Wales).

Replacements: S Byrne (Leinster and Ireland), G Jenkins (Cardiff Blues and Wales), B Kay (Leicester and England), S Easterby (Llanelli Scarlets and Ireland), D Peel (Llanelli Scarlets and Wales), R O’Gara (Munster and Ireland), S Horgan (Leinster and Ireland).

New Zealand Maori team: L MacDonald; R Gear, R Tipoki, L McAlister, C Ralph; D Hill, P Weepu; D Manu, C Flynn, C Hayman, R Filipo, S Hohneck, J Gibbes (capt), M Holah, A MacDonald.

Replacements: S Linklater, G Feek, D Braid, W Ormond, C McGrath, C Spencer, N Brew.

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