Lions 2013: Australia give three players debuts for first Test

By Bryn PalmerBBC Sport in Brisbane
Israel Folau

Australia have named three debutants for Saturday's first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Brisbane.

Israel Folau, a former rugby league international who also played Australian football before switching to union, starts at right wing.

Christian Leali'ifano gets the nod over Pat McCabe at inside centre, while Ben Mowen starts at blind-side flanker.

James O'Connor starts at fly-half for only the second time in a Test match, with Kurtley Beale on the bench.

Beale has only played one game of club rugby since he received treatment for alcohol-related problems after punching two Melbourne Rebels team-mates.

The versatile Berrick Barnes, who can also play at number 10 and centre, starts at full-back.

Folau, who as an 18-year-old was the youngest Australian to appear in a rugby league international, only started his first game of Super Rugby with the New South Wales Waratahs five months ago.

But his game-breaking ability sees him drafted onto the right flank, with Digby Ioane declared fit to start on the left wing after recovering from knee cartilage surgery last month.

The inclusion of Leali'ifano - ahead of the more direct McCabe - alongside the experienced Adam Ashley-Cooper suggests Australia could adopt a more expansive approach.

The 25-year-old Brumbies player will also offer a second kicking option alongside O'Connor, who has mostly played wing and full-back for the Wallabies but only one Test at number 10.

Australia came into the series without injured flankers David Pocock, George Smith and Scott Higginbotham, lock Sitaleki Timani and hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau.

In the absence of Pocock and Smith, Michael Hooper - man of the match in Australia's win over England at Twickenham last year - gets the nod at open-side over fellow 21-year-old Liam Gill, who is on the bench.

Lock James Horwill returns as captain for his first Test in 18 months, having missed the entire 2012 season with a hamstring injury.

Only six of the side - Barnes, Ashley-Cooper, number eight Wycliff Palu, lock Kane Douglas and the two props, Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander - started Australia's last Test, a 14-12 victory over Warren Gatland's Wales in Cardiff last December.

Australia team: Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs); Israel Folau (NSW), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW), Christian Leali'ifano (ACT Brumbies), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); James O'Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (Reds); Benn Robinson (NSW), Stephen Moore (ACT), Ben Alexander (ACT), James Horwill (Reds - capt), Kane Douglas (NSW), Ben Mowen (ACT), Michael Hooper (NSW), Wycliff Palu (NSW).

Replacements: Saia Fainga'a (Reds), James Slipper (Reds), S Kepu (NSW), Rob Simmons (Reds), Liam Gill (Reds) Nick Phipps (Rebels), Pat McCabe (ACT), Kurtley Beale (Rebels).