Wallabies versus Lions: Here are the teams for the first test
British & Irish Lions

Wallabies versus Lions – Here are the teams for the first test

Wallabies versus Lions – Here are the teams for the first test
Maybe, yes, no.

Maybe, yes, no.

The last few days have given us a great deal of insight into how the final Wallabies versus Lions teams for the first test in Brisbane will be lining up and that in turn gives us some further clues how to the two teams may be opting to play.

The most definitive statement came from the Lions in the naming of their team to face the Brumbies, coupled with recent injuries. You wouldn’t expect any of the starting XV to be in Saturday’s squad, and the pure pressure of numbers says the bench on Tuesday will most likely be the bench on the weekend.

For the Wallabies it was the release of Dennis and Horne to the Tahs that gave us some final clues as to the Wallaby back row and inside centre combinations.

Here then are what we believe will be the  two match day squads.


1. Benn Robinson
2. Stephen Moore
3. Ben Alexander
4. James Horwill
5. Kane Douglas
6. Ben Mowen
7. Michael Hooper
8. Wycliff Palu
9. Will Genia
10. James O’Connor
11. Nick Cummins
12. Pat McCabe
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper
14.  Israel Folau
15. Kurtley Beale

16.  Saia Faingaa
17. Sekope Kepu
18.  James Slipper
19.  Hugh McMeniman
20. Liam Gill
21.  Nick Phipps
22.  Christian Leali’ifano
23.  Berrick Barnes

British and Irish Lions

1. Mako Vuniploa
2. Tom Youngs
3. Adam Jones
4. Alun Wyn Jones
5. Paul O’Connell
6. Tom Croft
7. Sam Warburton
8. Jamie Heaslip
9. Mike Phillips
10.  Jonathan Sexton
11.  George North
12.  Jonathan Davies
13.  Brian O’Driscoll
14.  Alex Cuthbert
15.  Leigh Halfpenny

16.   Richard Hibbard
17.   Alex Corbisiero
18.   Dan Cole
19.   Geoff Parling
20.   Dan Lydiate
21.   Conor Murray
22.   Owen Farrell
23.   Simon Zebo

What’s interesting is that the Lions selections of Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Croft, Warburton and Heaslip are all ones that favour work rate over power, especially at scrum time. Is this yet another indication that the Lions are preparing for a high tempo match? Perhaps they also feel that overkill on scrum dominance will simply not be worth it with two southern hemisphere referees?

From the beginning our assumption has been that Deans will play a conservative style, preferring McCabe or Horne at 12. However, does the release of Horne to the Waratahs last weekend signal that Deans has a wider game plan in mind? With Roberts out of the first test with injury, the pressure for pure defensive power at 12 is somewhat diminished, and if the Reds and Waratah matches showed us anything, it was that there are metres to be made wide against the Lions, if you can get there.

Other interesting Wallaby selection decisions will be Douglas vs Simmons, Mowen vs McMeniman and Beale vs Barnes. Hear our thoughts on these and more on our most recent podcast (inset).

So what do you think, how right have we got it?

  • Andrew Byrne

    I would go for Sean O’Brien at 6 for the Lions, other than that I think you’ve got it fairly right. Except 23 should be Simon Zebo, not Thomas.

    • Krang

      I agree that’s who they should pick. However, SoB is starting the midweek game, which indicates he’s not a starter for the test.

      From my perspective. Croft doesn’t offer enough in the tight and at the breakdown for a 6. With 2 giant wingers and a hefty backline, there’s no real need for him out wide. I’d prefer SoB for his tough carrying or Lydiates tackles (which give a good chance the 7 can turnover – see the leadup to the final Lions try at the weekend).

      • Andrew Byrne

        Good point about SOB starting midweek game, I just hope he only plays for the first 40mins and then comes off to let Lydiate have a run off the bench. The length of time he plays might give an indication as to what, if anything, Gatland is thinking…

  • Grandmaster Flash

    McCabe starting noooooooooooooo!

    • JimmyC

      My mail is that he won’t be. I have been told its Genia, O’Connor, Ioane, Lealiifano, Ashley-Cooper, Folau and Barnes. Beale to 10 if JOC hamstring plays up

      • Stin

        Where does your mail come from JimmyC? Can you forward it to me? Thanks.

        • JimmyC

          Lets wait until Thursday to discuss if it’s true or not

        • JimmyC

          Looks like my source came up trumps

        • Stin

          I never doubted it.

    • whiggety

      What I want to know, is how does McCabe even make the squad. He is not, and never has been, the form Oz inside center. Yes he has guts, but so does my 6 year old son, and I don’t expect that to be enough for either of them to be a wallaby.

  • bill

    I think the lion’s ought to go Tipuric 7, O’Brien 6 and Fal 8. Croft and Heaslip bench.
    I’d be surprised if Simmons doesn’t start for us. And I think they’ll switch BOD to 12 if Roberts doesn’t recover with Davies at OC. Gotta love McCabe but he shouldn’t be anywhere but blindside wing at test level, unless they’ve performed a hand transplant we’re kind of fucked if he’s 12.

    • realist

      you can think what you want about the back row but it’s not going to happen. They are all playing Tuesday and are Dirktrackers now.

      • bill

        thats why I’m an armchair general. I know they’re going with Warburton but as a fan I’d rather the others. Warburton did look better against the tahs though. Lions didn’t seem to be supporting their own weight at the breakdown in Brissie at times. And at least in Sydney there was more of a gap in the lineout.

  • Dougall

    Suncorp will play a massive role in the result, should hopefully be a roaring Wallabies crowd present to get the boys over the line

    • Rex Munday

      I don’t know why they’d bother turning up with a grand total of 2 Reds in the starting lineup. I suppose they’re only useful when they’re cheering on mediocre Tahs.

      • Dougall

        That’s just….stupid.

      • Who?

        I’ll be there, with an anti-Deans sign to wave.
        There was another ARU ticket off this afternoon, maybe it’s not sold out yet?

  • Stin

    So are you banking on MMM covering second row? That suggests 80 mins doesn’t it? Hardly think he’ll be up for 50. God I hope you’re wrong about McCabe but I fear you’re correctomundo. Is Digby definitely out?

  • Lauren Perry

    One thing I noticed is the Lions are turning over a lot of ball at the breakdown. Gilly would be a better prospect for his scavenging skills.

    • Jack Howes

      Hooper is, of course, hopeless at the breakdown. It’s not like he spent all of last spring being Australia’s best against the same players he’s going to compete against in this series.

      • Lauren Perry

        Hooper didn’t have a great super rugby season this season, he seemed to of dropped off a bit, a few sparkles but nothing great. Gill, however was fantastic through most of it despite a bad African tour.

        On turnovers, Gill does have the highest pilfer rate in the comp…. And I saw on Saturday that breakdown after breakdown Warberton was in the thick of it turning it over.

        • PiratesRugby

          Gill playing with a better pack than Hooper so hard to compare. Deans will go with the incumbent.

          But we’re just guessing. Its a week away to the first test and we’ve got nothing better to do.

        • Lauren Perry

          I’d give it one game and Gill will be itching at the chance whilst Hooper makes vital errors.

        • mjw

          Are you still wearing your All Blacks jumper to Tahs games, Lauren?

        • Jake

          While Hooper has a fantastic skillset, one that cant be replicated anywhere else in the world (he even runs like a beach sprinter!) but I agree that Gill should start at 7. Australia needs to bring something different to this game; if they try and bring players to bash it up, they will simply get run over by a larger Lions team. The Wallabies need to bring an aggressive 7 in defense, and Gill is a specialty for it. He is excellent at getting in and disrupting ball, which is vital to kill the Lions’ momentum.
          With that said, I certainly think there is a place for Hooper in a starting side at 6 (I dont think Mowen has earnt a start yet). It allows you to get Hoopers excellent running play and still have 4 jumpers in the two 2nd Rows, Gill and Palu.

        • Who?

          If Gill’s playing with a better pack than Hooper, why are Hooper’s team mates dominating the Wallabies? Hooper’s playing with Dennis and Palu. Both are in the 31. Gill’s playing with Quirk and Schatz. Neither is in the squad.

          It should be Gill, for his tighter game and greater strength over the ball. With Hooper coming on in the second half to cut the Lions to ribbons with his running game. But it won’t be that, it’ll be Hooper getting smashed at the breakdown all game, cutting his running game, and Gill underused off the bench.

        • Rex Munday

          “If Gill’s playing with a better pack than Hooper, why are Hooper’s team mates dominating the Wallabies?”

          Hmmm. That’s an interesting question.

        • Jack Howes

          You’re just making things up now. Hooper has, like many Wallaby regulars, grown into the season. Completely unsurprising given the workload he was put under last year. That and Dave Dennis deciding he actually felt like getting involved at the breakdown saw Hooper hitting top form in the weeks leading up to the Wallaby squad being picked. On the breakdown, why are you talking about the Lions stealing opposition ball and then putting forward Gill because he can steal opposition ball? We need a collective effort to get to rucks fast and then hit them hard and accurately. I mean, Rene Ranger has the second most pilfers in the competition, do you really think the All Blacks are going to start him at openside? You’re picking one possible facet of an openside play, then incorrectly applying it to a team situation.

        • Lauren Perry

          Nope. It’s fact.
          Least I’ve read between the lines of both their seasons.

        • Jack Howes

          It’s a season of rugby, not a Deans press conference. You don’t have to read between the lines.

        • Dougall

          It’s called the Nonu effect, just because they don’t show their potential during the Super Rugby season doesn’t mean they won’t step up when given the jersey of their country.

        • Jonty

          You’ve got to be kidding, Hooper has been outstanding. Gill is obviously better at the breakdown, but Hooper brings a different skill set. His workrate, defence and midfield running have been spectacular for the Waratahs. Two very talented players, they just bring different skills to the table. Hooper is no passenger, and he’s been proven to lift in the Gold jersey (his end of season tour was sensational)

  • bill

    Out of the guys in camp my backline would be 15 Folau, 9 Genia , 13 AAC, 12 Beale, 10 Lia, 14 O’Connor and 11 Morahan. Cummins and Phipps bench.

    • bill

      sod it might as well go full retard: 9 Phipps, 15 Folau ,12 Lea ,13 AAC, 14 JOC, 11 Morahan and Genia 10. Bench Beale and Cummins.

      • Krang

        As a Brit, I would be more scared of this backline than what’s currently on offer.
        But from a defense perspective… you never want to go full retard.,

        • bill

          I’m strangely comfortable with full retard. Never happen though. I hope Lea has a blinder.

      • Rex Munday

        Genia at 10???!

        • bill

          Phipps @ 9 is the bigger issue with that little thought experiment. I’d rather sub in Nic White for Phipps. Genia’s first game @ 10 wasn’t flash but his second was reasonable except for intercepts. I think Genia’s a better tactical kicker than either Beale or JO’C and has some length in his pass which I don’t think either B’ or JO’C have. Those intercepts are the worry.

      • A. Fox-Russell

        You never….ever…go full retard.

  • Jack Howes

    I know it’s popular to think it will be/cry about it being McCabe, but with Roberts out there’s even less reason for him to start. Think we’ll see Lilo at 12. Not sure there’s a genuine lineout caller to combat POC in that team either, reckon we’ll see either Mowen at 6 or Simmons instead of Douglas.

    • bill

      Yeah I can’t see even Robbie picking Pat at 12. Watching Scott Allens analysis of the Lion’s pattern of play it struck me that Roberts is what Robbie thinks Pat brings ….but he just isn’t. He just doesn’t have the hands Roberts has.

      • Jack Howes

        Roberts doesn’t have good hands? They’ve been distinctly below par in his efforts on tour so far. Deans picked McCabe because he’s an absolute unit on defence and he felt we needed a bit extra there given Cooper was the starting 10 at the time. With JOC at 10, and Roberts not starting, there are far fewer reasons to pick McCabe than there were two years ago.

        • bill

          I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say but that’s not what I said. And before he went off Roberts showed his hands were good with putting Davies through. Inside outside ball.

  • Riddler

    Oh dear, predicting carnage!

  • Chris w

    By saying that they have picked players based on the fact that 2 of the games are refereed by southern hemisphere refs, do you think that the lions will pick a different pack and game plan for the game that is refereed by the northern hemisphere ref??

  • JimmyC

    @gagger Mowen and MMM mixed up based on your podcast chat with Scott.

    • How’s that?

      • JimmyC

        Didn’t Scott say Mowen would start and call lineouts.

  • Pedro

    I think if Mowen’s in the team he has to start. He’s not the biggest back rower and relies on his speed and fitness more than his bulk, I can’t see him making a big impact off the bench. I would start with him and bring on Palu instead, more impact plus he’s unlikely to play 80min.

    • Bobas

      I think the idea is that if you bring palu off the bench and he breaks down you’re stuffed.

      • PiratesRugby

        What do you mean “if” he breaks down?

  • PiratesRugby

    Pfft… navel gazing.

  • Oonagh

    Think the lions test is mostly right, but i don’t think heaslip deserves the spot, he wasn’t good enough against the tahs , and having Toby faletau will free up Croft on the wing because he’s a tighter player. Also Davies and O’Driscoll have never played together. And the first time should not be in a test!

    • Who?

      If not Davies and BOD, then who would you pick? Gatland only picked four centres, two are injured, these are the two who are left from the original squad. Not ideal, but there’s no other established combination to select.
      And I’m really disappointed that SOB won’t be there… Heaslip > Faletau, but if you don’t want Heaslip, then it’d be great to see SOB somehow squeezed in there…

  • Meaty

    Post-match interview value aside, what exactly does Cummins bring to the test team? His EOYT tries last year were pure finishers tries that any Super rugby winger could’ve completed. Yes he runs hard into contact but shouldn’t that be the norm for all of our wing options? Morahan offers more skill, Davies more speed.

    I am really scratching my head as to how he has become our incumbent winger all of a sudden.

    Would be great to see a breakdown of minutes played this season of that 1st XV. I know Scott and Matt touched on it recently in one of the podcasts.

    • Nick

      Great call. Mitchell should be there over him.

      • Rugby Realist

        Especially after Drew’s performance on Sat night … his best game in a long time. Will his body hold up though is the biggest question. Poor buuger has been smacked with a lot of injuries!

    • timmyhoranisgod

      Cummins is only there because Ioane & Tomane are injured. Nether of them would have made it had Speight been illegible. The Honey Badgers days are numbered. Assuming Folau stays in Rugby it will be a Folau-Beale-Speight back 3 leading to World Cup.

      Apparently Ioane hasn’t been ruled out yet anyway.

      Would love to see Lealifano start @12. We don’t need McCabe with a Davies-O’Driscoll centre combo

      • brumby runner

        I’m sure all opposing wingers would agree that Henry is very hard to read.

        • John Eales

          Giddy up!

    • Dougall

      Why would you even consider Davies, you lost me at that stupid statement.

  • Finn

    1. Robinson

    2. Moore

    3. Slipper

    4. Pyle

    5. Horwill

    6. Mowen

    7. Hooper

    8. Palu

    9. Genia

    10. O’Conner

    11. Cummins

    12. Leliafano

    13. AAC

    14. Folau

    15. Beale

    16. Faingaa

    17. Sio

    18. Kepu

    19. Douglas

    20. Gill

    21. McCabe

    22. Phipps

    23. Barnes

  • Scotty

    If my mail is correct you have at least 3 starting positions incorrect, possibly 4.

  • Country kid

    Re: 15. I would have thought that Folau has been very good under the high ball. I reckon Beale is very suspect when fielding kicks. Hope I am proved wrong…

  • Giles Gibbins

    I honestly think lealiifano will start.
    Robbie said earlier this year that Lealiifano would’ve made the “group” last year if not injured. and that he has always been part of the wallabies “plans”.

    While McCabe is obviously one of robbies favourites, we have never had these two competing for the same gold jumper before. I think you’ll all be surprised when the team comes out.

    • Jonty

      Good point, Robbie said a lot of times last year that CL’s form for the Brumbies was brilliant, and that he’d have been in contention for Gold.

      Can’t forget how hard we were hit with injuries last year. Look what’s happened at the Brumbies when CL and Mccabe were competing for a jumper…. enjoying those splinters Pat?

    • Benny A’s Tackle

      With both wrecking balls; Roberts and Tuilagi out, the need for McCabe may have been quelled a little. And Leali’ifano is an outstanding defender anyway. I like Patty Mc but surely his lack of game time and fitness are against him despite being a favourite.

  • Davy

    Genia instead of Phipps or Burgess controversy reigns. And where the hell is Quade I thought he was in the squad. Horne should be 12 with Tom Carter on the bench. I just hope Deans knows more than these GAGR experts.

    • Rex Munday

      “And where the hell is Quade I thought he was in the squad”

      So, how did the trip to Mars go?

      • Davy

        Mars was great. I can confirm that alien life form does exist and they all speak like Robbie Deans and they know more about rugby than Greg Martin.

      • Patrick

        I think that’s were he found Carter… suspect he’s stirring!

  • Bairdy

    For my mind, I cannot see MMM starting for the Wallabies at 6. Likewise with Beale because both have had very little to no game time. Will probably be Barnes at 15, but he’s only clocked only a little more game time than Beale. Gawd I hope the Wallabies aren’t underdone for the first test, but I will cheer them on with absolute fervour come Saturday!

  • Pclifto

    Replace McCabe with Leali’ifano for the starting XV and I’m on board…

  • Drop kick

    Beale at 10, O’Connor 11, McCabe 12, AAC 13, Folau 14, Barnes 15.
    Lea on at 60 for McCabe. all bases covered – defence attack, unpredictability security

  • FirstFiveEighth

    I’m a Welshman and thought I’d see what the Aussies are saying, been looking over the Lions team on here and I’d say that’s pretty close to the test side. Due to injury Vunipola has shot to the front of the queue, he’s done well but I think he came as an impact player so I’d go with Corbisero whose a better scrummager with Hibbard at 2. To me that’s a stronger front row to start and would give the Lions a very slight edge. Second row POC and AWJ, back row is the big question, I think Heaslip just beats Faletau. Tipuric has been fantastic and is the form player but I’m sure Warbs will be 7, at 6 i think Croft will get the pick with his line out ability and pace but SOB offers power and Lydiate offers tackle after tackle! The backs pick themselves, Phillips, Sexton, Davis, BOD, North, Cuthbert, halfpenny. Although Twelvetrees is a player!

    • Mica

      Welcome 1st 5!
      Agree with everything you have said. Hard not to give O’Brien at least a bench spot. He’s been in top form. Nice to get the perspective of our Northern Neighbours too. Enjoy the series but hopefully not too much ;)

  • Proud Welshman

    Proud Welshman, but really impressed with the site lads.

    I don’t think the Lions have used anything in the warm up games that you’re likely to see in the tests when it comes to line outs or, as you said in your podcast, rolling mauls. Interesting on the coverage over here, Scott Quinnell said that on the last tour of Australia, Scott Johnson was working with the Australian A side and by the time they played the Lions, Johnson had seen pretty much everything the Lions had to offer and could call their line outs himself. Think they learnt from that.

    Changes to the Lions squad I think they’ll make from your team are….

    Hibbard in at 2 for his physical presence in the front row.

    Lydiate in at 6 and Croft on the bench. I don’t think he’ll start with both Heaslip and Croft. I think Croft should play, but Gatland loves Lydiates defensive work and he and Warburton work so well together. If Croft does start, I think he’ll go with Faletau at 8.

    Ben Youngs will probably be on the bench, offers something different to Phillips which Gatland likes to unleash around the hour mark.

    • bill

      Although I was very happy wiith the way the Reds went with the Lions it did feel like the Lions were going all very softly softly catchee monkey once the first 20 went past, not that the Reds gave them much choice in the matter but they looked pretty composed.
      They looked stronger in Sydney in the way they went about things. Shame Roberts did the hammy.

  • taffythebeermonster

    View from the north. The Wallabies side looks about right. I would pick CL @12, but Deans will select PM. Don’t be surprised if AC starts @1, even with Pollock and Joubert to referee the first 2 Tests. A Kiwi was the referee for the 1st Test in SA in 2009, where the Lions scrum imploded in the first half.

  • Helennsteve Stevenhelen

    3 A Jones 2 Hibbard 1 Corbisiero
    4 AWJ 5 POC
    6 Croft 7 Warburton 8 Faletau
    9 Phillips 10 Sexton
    12 BOD 13 Davies (playing right and left, rather than inside and outside)
    14 Cuthbert/Maitland
    15 Halfpenny

    16 Coles 17 YoungsT 18 Vunipola, 19 Gray/Parling, 20 SOB, 21 YoungsB, 22 Farrell, 23 Hogg

  • Dasher

    I watched them train in Kawana the other day and the team was: Robinson, Faingaa, ?, Simmonds, Douglas, Mowen, Hooper, McCalman, Genia, BEALE, Horne, Lealiifano, AAC, Folau, Phipps. But I suspect this was to run some Plan B and Plan C scenarios. Oh and Lealiifano was taking the conversions.

  • brumby runner

    Mowen definitely over MMM if Simmons not picked at lock. Given MMM’s lack of match play, bench would be best.

    If Deans wanted to play the usual bash it up No 12, he should have gone with Horne who is fitter and has been more effective in that role than Pat McCabe this year. Having released Horne, I expect to see Christian at 12 with Pat on the bench to cover 12 – 15.

    • A. Fox-Russell

      That makes sense. Even with Deans’ love-tainted McCabe glasses, I think you’re right. This is his career on the line here, McCabe would be a huge gamble as run-on 12 with bugger all game time. Horne came back to Tahs, Lilo to start @ 12.

      Do I approve I hear you all ask? I do.

  • Helennsteve Stevenhelen

    As ever an excellent listen and interesting insights provided on both teams.

    I have posted the team I think will be selected separately. My reasoning is:

    Gatland will play tight, and put out the best defensive team. Youngs and Vunipola won’t start IMHO, but will be used as impact off the bench. Gatland won’t play Heaslip and Croft together. It will be Faletau and Croft or Heaslip and Lydiate. Some one has to do some grunt in the back row not just Warburton. Youngs B has played himself ahead of Murray for the bench spot. Zebo may make it into the team ahead of Cuthbert/Maitland, but I suspect that given the absence of Roberts and Bowe and Tuilagi, the wing spot will go to the more “bedded in” player. Hogg is most likely back cover on the bench, but if he doesn’t start it may be Maitland.

  • Jay

    Digby Ioane will start ahead of Nick Cummins now that he’s fit to play.

  • Moons

    1. Robinson

    2. Moore

    3. Alexander

    4. Douglas

    5. Horwill

    6. Mowen

    7. Hooper

    8. Palu

    9. Genia

    10. O’Connor

    11. Ioane


    13. AAC

    14. Folau

    15. Beale

    I think this would be the best team to face the Lions. Assuming O’Connor or Beale is going to play 10.

  • david baldwin

    Gotta be honest – not a terrible team but not a team that scares anyone. “IF” JOC is going to start at 10 I think he needs CL at 12 to help him out with the playmaking. I have heard rumours that Beale has done an awful lot of training at 10 which makes me think that perhaps the backline could look like.


    I think Israel should start however i think at FB, he has played bugger all on the wing and I think he is better suited to FB at the moment. JOC on the wing coming in as a blind winger in traffic would cause all sorts of problems for the Lions, he would still be able to “traumatise” them.

    If it was my choice I would probably pump McCabe and put CL at 12 to help either Beale or JOC out at 10. We still have Ioane, AAC and Folau to be the “big” ball runners.

  • Churchills cigar

    As I posted this morning on the 31 man squad forum, the run on team is
    Ioani (Moraghan if Ioani unfit)

    That is your run on team

  • Chump

    I thought Digby was back from injury for the first test?

British & Irish Lions

Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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