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Our Lions XV For Next Week's First Test Against Australia

At the time of writing this article the Lions have just produced their best performance of the tour so far, a comprehensive 47-17 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney. There is still one game to be played before next weeks first Test Match in Brisbane, a game against the ACT Brumbies on Tuesday, but already the rugby world have been debating who will be taking the field when the game kicks off next Saturday. For what it's worth here is my starting XV for next weeks game and the reasons behind my selections, assuming everyone is fit and available to play.

FULL BACK - LEIGH HALFPENNY

This is by far one of the easiest positions to fill, and I have no doubt that Leigh Halfpenny will be awarded the number 15 jersey for next weekends game. Against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday he was immaculate with his eight kicks at goal and he scored two tries as well.

LEFT WING - ALEX CUTHBERT

With Tommy Bowe being injured Alex Cuthbert is now a certainty for next weeks Test in Brisbane. Cuthbert had a great Six Nations, culminating with two tries against England in the Championship decider at Cardiff back in March, and he has performed well on tour so far and has scored three tries so he gets the nod from me for the First Test.

RIGHT WING - GEORGE NORTH

Another Welshmen completes the back three, but there are currently question marks over North's fitness. If he fails to make it then Simon Zebo would be my choice to claim the number 11 jersey next weekend as he was all over the park in his first appearance in a Lions jersey against the NSW Waratahs. 

INSIDE CENTRE - JAMIE ROBERTS

At the time of writing there are major doubts over Roberts ahead of the First Test as he limped off towards the end of the game on Saturday. If he fails to make it then I would like to see Jonathan Davies given the nod to play as he had a sublime game against the NSW Waratahs on Saturday and has impressed all tour. 

OUTSIDE CENTRE - BRIAN O'DRISCOLL (CAPTAIN)

Yet more injury worries over O'Driscoll, but if fit he has to play next week. If not then Manu Tuilagi could expect to play, though he remains a doubt too, hence why England's Billy Twelvetrees and Brad Barritt have been called up as yet more emergency replacements.

FLY HALF - JONNY SEXTON

Sexton gets the nod over Owen Farrell because he is a far better attacking option, though Farrell can expect to be on the bench as his replacement and will also add cover in case anything should happen to goal kicker Halfpenny.

SCRUM HALF - MIKE PHILLIPS

The Lions are going to go for power up front so that plays into Mike Phillips' hands, so he gets my vote ahead of Ben Youngs who can consider himself a little unlucky to miss out on selection.  

NUMBER EIGHT - TOBY FALETAU

The back row will be giving coach Warren Gatland some serious headaches as he could literally pick any three players from a potential six. Faletau for me ahead of Jamie Heaslip for the number eight shirt as he makes less mistakes then Heaslip and is much stronger in my opinion. 

OPENSIDE FLANKER - JUSTIN TIPURIC

Controversial I know, but I would pick Tipuric over Warburton for my team, simply because the guy is in the form of his life. Ever since Gatland made Sam Warburton captain he gave himself a major selection headache with this position and I expect Warburton to start next weekend, though I would pick Tipuric. 

BLINDSIDE FLANKER - TOM CROFT

Tom Croft would be my selection at blindside and he will be be desperately unlucky to miss out if Gatland goes for the all Welsh back three that destroyed England in March, though for me it is Croft that deserves to wear the number six shirt next Saturday after another good all round display against the Waratahs.

SECOND ROW - ALUN-WYN JONES

Jones has played well for a number of years now and was a consistent performer for the Lions four years ago. His extra strength and ball carrying skills see him selected ahead of Scotland's Richie Gray and England's Geoff Parling as my number five.

SECOND ROW - PAUL O'CONNELL

O'Connell may be the elder statesman amongst the forwards, but for me he was the stand out performer and had a huge game against the Waratahs on Saturday, and if he doesn't play it would be a major surprise.

TIGHT HEAD PROP - ADAM JONES

No surprises here as Adam Jones is my choice for the number three shirt, though Dan Cole has impressed in the game time he has had so far and will no doubt come off the bench at some point next weekend. 

HOOKER - TOM YOUNGS

Not much in it for the hookers spot, but I give it to Youngs ahead of Richard Hibbard because he is a little more consistent at the lineout and is strong around the park, though Hibbard will do just as good a job if he is selected. 

LOOSE HEAD PROP - ALEX CORBISIERO

Gethin Jenkins would have taken the number one shirt, but he is just one of the many players to have suffered from injury in the first few weeks of the tour. In his absence I would pick Corbisiero as he is a better scrummage option than his countryman Mako Vunipola, with Vunipola used as an impact sub, though coach Gatland will probably select them the other way around. 

So there we go that is my team for next week, and in my opinion this team is good enough to beat Australia by at least 8-10 points.

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