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O’Driscoll Leads Lions Against Force in Australia Opener

Brian O’Driscoll will lead the British and Irish Lions against the Western Force in two days, the first of five games in Australia before the touring team takes on the Wallabies in a Test series.

Ireland center O’Driscoll, 34, takes over as skipper from national teammate Paul O’Connell, who led the combined squad to a 59-8 win over the Barbarians in Hong Kong two days ago. The starting lineup to face the Force doesn’t include any players who began that match.

“The lads who played in Hong Kong put down a marker as they performed extremely well in very tough conditions,” Lions tour manager Andy Irvine said at the team announcement. “I told the team in Hong Kong that they were custodians of the red jersey. That responsibility is now with this group of players and I am confident they will give their all against the Force.”

The Lions, a selection of players from the U.K. and Ireland that tours every four years, arrived in Perth this morning. Tour captain Sam Warburton will continue to rest the knee he injured in the lead-up to the Hong Kong match.

The game against the Force Super Rugby team at Patersons Stadium is the first of nine in Australia for the Lions, who haven’t won a Test series since beating South Africa in 1997. The Lions face the Wallabies in a best-of-three contest starting June 22 in Brisbane.

Wallabies second-rower Sitaleki Timani has been ruled out of the series as he needs surgery on a broken thumb. He was injured during the New South Wales Waratahs’ 23-22 Super Rugby defeat to Canterbury Crusaders last week.

Melbourne Rebels forward Scott Higginbotham will be reassessed later this week on a dislocated right shoulder sustained in a 33-20 defeat to the Queensland Reds two days ago.

LIONS TEAM TO FACE WESTERN FORCE ON JUNE 5: Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll (captain), Manu Tuilagi, George North, Jonathan Sexton, Conor Murray, Jamie Heaslip, Sean O’Brien, Tom Croft, Ian Evans, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Cole, Rory Best, Cian Healy.

Replacements: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Matt Stevens, Geoff Parling, Toby Faletau, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Sean Maitland.

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