Paul O’Connell will lead the British & Irish Lions once again when they play their fourth fixture against the Sharks at the ABSA Stadium in Durban on Wednesday night.
The Munster and Ireland lock is one of four players retained from Saturday’s starting line-up from the 26-24 win over the Cheetahs. Full back Lee Byrne and wings Shane Williams and Luke Fitzgerald are the others.
London Wasps and England centre Riki Flutey is included among the replacements after recovering from the knee strain he picked up in his 13-minute appearance as a replacement in the opening game against the Royal XV. He is now the only member of the 38-strong squad to yet make a start on tour.
“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. The players and the medical staff have managed the injuries that have been sustained in a very professional manner,” said head coach Ian McGeechan.
“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.”
The ABSA Stadium is the venue for the first Test and so it will be a useful experience for the Lions to get used to the venue ahead of that crucial fixture.
“We are now halfway through the provincial matches prior to the first Test and the important factor is that the Lions are unbeaten. The next challenge is the Sharks in Durban,” said tour manager Gerald Davies.
“The selected team will want to ensure that the 100-per-cent playing record is maintained with a victory at ABSA Stadium.”
British & Irish Lions (vs Sharks)
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)
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)