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Gatland keeping options open fior first Lions Test

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British & Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland says there are "no preconceived ideas" about the make-up of his first Test team that will tackle Australia this month.

That selection process effectively begins at Hong Kong Stadium today when 2009 Lions captain Paul O'Connell leads the tourists into action.

Starting with the Barbarians, there are six games before Gatland's Test XV runs out against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

"What we've always said is that everyone will get a start in the first three games, and we will look at certain combinations, mixing and matching a little bit," head coach Gatland said.

"The great thing at the moment is there is a huge amount of competition within the squad.

"I think a lot of players feel that if they play well and put their hand up, they've got a chance of being selected.

"The guys who go out today get their first opportunity to set a mark and put some pressure on the other players in the squad.

"In terms of the Test side, probably not until after the first four games will we actually even start thinking about that. I think it is important that these players feel like they've got a chance to go out and impress.

"As coaches and management, we are not going around with any preconceived ideas about what we think the Test side should look like."

O'Connell will seal his comeback from serious injury by captaining the Lions today. Only a few months ago, the 33-year-old Ireland lock did not expect to be part of what is now his third Lions mission.

But with tour skipper Sam Warburton resting a knee injury, O'Connell takes over as leader against the Barbarians.

"I suppose around Christmas, and even two or three months after Christmas, I certainly thought I wouldn't be here, so to be here and now captaining the side is fantastic," said O'Connell, who was laid low by groin and back problems.

"I am delighted. It's a very exciting occasion. We've had a few great weeks, and it has gone up another level since the Leicester boys and the Leinster boys came in (last weekend).

"I am disappointed for Sam. He has run a great ship the last few weeks."

Solitary Irishman O'Connell will take charge of a team containing nine Welshmen – including the entire back row of Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Toby Faletau – three Scots and two English.

Gatland keeping options open fior first Lions Test


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