Wales lock Alun Wyn Jones will captain the Lions in the final Test against Australia on Saturday after Brian O’Driscoll was dropped from the squad. Irishman O’Driscoll was favourite to replace injured skipper Sam Warburton.
Coach Warren Gatland makes six changes to the side beaten in the second Test, with centre Jamie Roberts fit to start.
Prop Alex Corbisiero, hooker Richard Hibbard, flanker Sean O’Brien, scrum-half Mike Phillips and number eight Toby Faletau are also included.
Roberts missed the first two Tests with a hamstring problem but returns to partner Jonathan Davies in the centres after O’Driscoll’s surprising omission.
O’Driscoll, 34, was seen as the likely replacement for Warburton as he has led sides at international level on a world-record 84 occasions – in 83 of his 125 Tests for Ireland, plus the first Lions Test in New Zealand in 2005.
He has also captained the Lions on six other occasions, but his performances in the first two games against Australia prompted Gatland to look elsewhere.
“Brian was disappointed but he appreciated that he was spoken to before the team announcement,” said Gatland.
“It’s the first time that a coach has ever made the decision with him in 15 years of rugby. Jamie is back fit and has been given the nod in terms of his partnership with Davies.”
With the series tied at 1-1 after one narrow victory apiece for Australia and the Lions in the first two Tests, Gatland has picked 10 Wales players for the series-deciding final game in Sydney – a record number of Welshmen in a Lions starting XV, beating the nine selected for the first Test in 1971 and first and third Tests in 1977.
Alun Wyn Jones leads the Lions for the first time, although the 27-year-old has captained Wales once in his 70 appearances for the national side.
The versatile O’Brien, who has started two games at six and two at seven on tour, and came on at number eight in the second Test in Melbourne, gets the nod over open-side specialist Justin Tipuric, who is on the bench.
This will be the third successive Lions tour to Australia that has gone to a decisive third Test. The Lions won 19-18 in Sydney in 1989 but were beaten 29-23 on their most recent tour in 2001. They have not won a Test series anywhere since their victory in South Africa 16 years ago.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), 14 Tommy Bowe (Ireland), 13 Jonathan Davies (Wales), 12 Jamie Roberts (Wales), 11 George North (Wales), 10 Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), 9 Mike Phillips (Wales), 8 Toby Faletau (Wales), 7 Sean O’Brien (Ireland), 6 Dan Lydiate (Wales), 5 Geoff Parling (England), 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 3 Adam Jones (Wales), 2 Richard Hibbard (Wales), 1 Alex Corbisiero (England)
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs (England), 17 Mako Vunipola (England), 18 Dan Cole (England), 19 Richie Gray (Scotland), 20 Justin Tipuric (Wales), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Manu Tuilagi (England)