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British & Irish Lions
Neck on the block - the XV to face the Wallabies?
Tom Hamilton
June 19, 2013
With Jamie Roberts out, Jonathan Davies will get his chance to shine against the Wallabies © PA Photos
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While the British & Irish Lions' wish to go the whole of the 2013 series unbeaten has gone up in smoke, the real business is yet to start with the Wallabies lying in wait. The first Test is now a couple of days away and after six weeks of intensive training, matches and off-field bonding, Warren Gatland will sit down with the rest of his coaching staff tonight and pick the team they believe will beat Australia on Saturday.

We already have a rough idea of what line-up Robbie Deans will put out onto the field following the 'leaked' XV which did the rounds on social media on Wednesday. And several members of the press and former players have had their punt at how the Lions will line-up. But here is the line-up I believe will take to the field on Saturday, let the abuse commence!

15. Leigh Halfpenny - The fullback has been one of the players of the tour. He has missed just one kick with the boot - something the Lions missed massively against the Brumbies on Tuesday - and he has also nipped in with three tries. He could be the match-winner for the Lions.

14. Alex Cuthbert - He has perhaps not yet hit the heights he did during the Six Nations, but Cuthbert is likely to get the nod on the right flank. He fits in with the Lions' game plan and has weighed in with three tries so far. Had Tommy Bowe been fit, he would have started.

13. Brian O'Driscoll - In what will be his final tour for the Lions, O'Driscoll, more than most, knows what the pain of losing a series feels like. Expect him to be fired up and pulling the strings in the centres come Saturday.

The Lions' George North scores a try against Combined Country, tour match, Queensland-New South Wales Combined Country v British & Irish Lions, Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, June 11, 2013
George North is likely to get the left wing spot © Getty Images
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12. Jonathan Davies - Jamie Roberts' injury has solved a selection headache for Gatland. Davies has been majestic in the centres for the Lions and was sensational against the Waratahs, playing a part in all five of the men in red's tries. He is likely to start at No.12.

11. George North - A real contender for the Lions' player of the series. The winger was a huge injury doubt for the first Test but he is fit and firing. The Wallabies will be wary of his power and pace with his ability and impact something the Australian media have focused on while the Lions have been Down Under.

10. Jonathan Sexton - The Lions' first-choice fly-half played well against the Waratahs and without the pressure of goal-kicking, with Halfpenny expected to take that role for Saturday's game, he can focus on his playmaking duties. His match-up against the Wallabies' expected No.10 James O'Connor should be fascinating.

9. Mike Phillips - Although he has a poor record against Australia scrum-half Will Genia, Phillips is likely to start at scrum-half on Saturday. He has three Lions caps under his belt following the 2009 tour of South Africa and has worked well in tandem with Sexton. Ben Youngs misfired against the Brumbies and that could have cost him a Test spot.

1. Mako Vunipola - With Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins back home following tour-ending injuries, Vunipola has come through the ranks to claim the loose-head berth. There is still a chance Alex Corbisiero will wear the No.1 jersey, assistant coach Graham Rowntree is a big fan of the soon-to-be Northampton Saints man, but Vunipola deserves his shot against the Wallabies following some impressive performances.

2. Tom Youngs - This slot in the team could yet go to Richard Hibbard but Youngs' darts at the lineout have found their target and he has impressed in the loose. This position could be decided on the flip of a coin but I am going for Youngs on gut instinct.

Lions locks Alun Wyn Jones and Paul O'Connell swap some game notes, Waratahs v British & Irish Lions, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, June 15, 2013
Alun-Wyn Jones and Paul O'Connell are likely to partner each other in the Lions' second-row © Getty Images
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3. Adam Jones - Before the tour started, if you could stake your house on one person to start in the Test team, it would have been Jones. Dan Cole has not done anything wrong, but Jones has been there, done it for the Lions and the coaches will know exactly what sort of performance he will put in on Saturday.

4. Alun-Wyn Jones - He was outstanding against the Waratahs and chased every ball and man with gusto. He is solid in the lineout and works well with O'Connell. Geoff Parling is likely to feature on the bench but I think Jones will get the starting shirt.

5. Paul O'Connell - The 2009 skipper has been immense since he came back from injury earlier this year. His time away from the game seems to have given him a new lease of life and he will be a vital presence on the field come Saturday both in terms of physical stature and for his leadership skills.

6. Tom Croft - He has chipped in with two tries and his athleticism is likely to cause carnage in the Wallabies' ranks. Gatland will find it hard to leave out Dan Lydiate, but Croft's pace around the field and his lineout skills are likely to give him the edge.

7. Sam Warburton - The Lions captain endured a dodgy first game of the tour against the Reds but he was superb against the Waratahs. He looks to be finding his stride and he will lead the team out at the weekend.

8. Jamie Heaslip - This slot could go to Toby Faletau but Heaslip has been wonderful on the tour so far. He has enjoyed frequent making line breaks and carrying from the back of the scrum and will fancy his chances against Wycliff Palu.

Sam Warburton is likely to lead out the Lions on Saturday © Getty Images
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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
WRITER BIO

Tom Hamilton was brought up underneath the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum