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Lions name strong line-up for opening game

The Lions have named nine debutantes in a strong line-up to take on the Royal XV in the opening game of their tour to South Africa. Ireland lock Paul O'Connell will captain the team from the second row while the squad's youngest player, Ireland's Keith Earls, lines out in the centre alongside Wales' Jamie Roberts.

Head coach Ian McGeechan has also selected the Lee Byrne, Tommy Bowe and Shane Williams in an all Ospreys back three. Wales dominate the team with seven players starting and another three on the bench with Adam Jones, Martin Williams and Andy Powell included in the pack.

McGeechan spoke to reporters about the team: "I think it is really exciting that we have a lot of players making their debuts," he said. "For young men such as Earls and Roberts it will be a day to remember and they will be thrilled to get an early taste of match action on the tour. Outside these guys is the proven experienced combination of the Ospreys' back three of Byrne, Bowe and Williams."

Players not included in Saturday's squad are expected to take part in the game against the Golden Lions next Wednesday, but it looks as if McGeechan's first selection doesn't give any indication of the Lions Test team which will take on the Springboks on June 20.

British and Irish Lions: L Byrne (Ospreys and Wales), T Bowe (Ospreys and Ireland) K Earls (Munster and Ireland), J Roberts (Cardiff and Wales), S Williams (Ospreys and Wales), R O'Gara (Munster and Ireland), M Blair (Edinburgh and Scotland); A Sheridan (Sale and England), M Rees (Scarlets and Wales), A Jones (Ospreys and Wales), S Shaw (Wasps and England), P O'Connell (Munster and Ireland, captain), J Worsley (Wasps and England), M Williams (Cardiff and Wales), A Powell (Cardiff and Wales). Replacements: L Mears (Bath and England), P Vickery (Wasps and England), A-W Jones (Ospreys and Wales), S Ferris (Ulster and Ireland), M Phillips (Ospreys and Wales), S Jones (Scarlets and Wales), R Flutey (Wasps and England)

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