Warren Gatland
Gatland has hinted at his test XV.

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has dropped a series of strong hints over the starting XV for the first test against Australia having named a customarily strong team for the penultimate warm-up game against the New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney ahead to the three-test series.

Sam Warburton captains the side from the back row ahead of fellow Wales flanker Justin Tipuric, who is omitted from the 23, while Ireland's Simon Zebo, called up as cover for the injured Tommy Bowe and Rob Kearney, makes his first appearance of the tour.

Mako Vunipola and Adam Jones start in the front row, with Alun Wyn Jones and Paul O'Connell partnered at lock. Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip is in at eight and Tom Croft completes the back row ahead of Sean O'Brien.

Mike Phillips and Johnny Sexton's injury problems are behind them and the duo start as the half-back pairing, with Welsh pair Jonathan Davies, who is expected to make way for Brian O'Driscoll come the first test in Brisbane, and Jamie Roberts in the centre.

Leigh Halfpenny starts at full-back for the second consecutive match and is joined by Scotland's Sean Maitland. Kearney, who is still to make an appearance on the tour due to a hamstring injury, starts on the bench.

The penultimate warm-up game before the test series begins is traditionally used as a dress rehearsal for the opening test match, but Gatland is refusing to confirm whether he will stick with convention.

"We haven't even spoken about the first Test in terms of that. These players have got an opportunity on Saturday," said Gatland.

"Some players have had two or three games in a week. We've got to think about Tuesday - we've got a game against the Brumbies on Tuesday - and we're still looking at combinations.

"We said to the players that there's an opportunity for the players on Saturday to stake claims but the Test team won't be selected until after Tuesday.

"We've got a few knocks in the backs at the moment. We need to make sure that we rest a few players because the whole priority is making sure that we arrive in Brisbane next Saturday fresh and ready to go.

"It would be great to remain unbeaten and take that momentum into the first test. However, more importantly we are looking to finalise key playing combinations and strengthen our patterns of play during the next two matches.

"This match, the fourth of our lead-up matches in Australia, will assist in this process. To beat the Waratahs we know we have to improve on our strong performance last Saturday against the Reds. This side is more than capable of doing that."

British & Irish Lions XV v HSNC NSW Waratahs
Leigh Halfpenny, Sean Maitland, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Simon Zebo, Johnny Sexton, Mike Phillips; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft, Sam Warburton, Jamie Heaslip

Richard Hibbard, Alex Corbisiero, Dan Cole, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Rob Kearney