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SYDNEY (AFP) – There will be no fairytale ending to his British and Irish Lions career for Brian O'Driscoll after the Irish legend was ruthlessly axed from the deciding third Test against the Wallabies in Sydney on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Leinster centre was hoping to crown his fourth Lions tour by helping the tourists to win their first series in 16 years but instead of winning his 134th Test cap he will have to be content with cheering from the sidelines.
O'Driscoll, sole survivor from the tour against the Wallabies in 2001, took his Lions Test tally to eight in the opening two games of this series. The 2005 captain, he has yet to win a series with the Lions and this is the first time he has been dropped.
Alun Wyn Jones will captain the Lions for the first time and he will be one of a record-equalling 10 Welsh players in the starting line-up, with an 11th on the bench. The last time Wales had 10 players in a Lions line-up was the first Test against Australia in Brisbane in 1950, which the Lions won 19-6.
Head coach Warren Gatland made five changes to a winning side between the first and second Tests and now he has made a further six changes to his starting line-up after losing 16-15 in Melbourne last weekend.
Out of the second Test starting XV go O'Driscoll, scrum-half Ben Youngs, his brother and hooker Tom Youngs, prop Mako Vunipola, No 8 Jamie Heaslip and the injured skipper Sam Warburton.
In come the fit-again trio of centre Jamie Roberts, scrum-half Mike Phillips and prop Alex Corbisiero, while Wales No 8 Toby Faletau will win his first Lions cap in a back row that sees Sean O'Brien move off the bench to claim Warburton's No 7 shirt.
England front-row men Vunipola and Tom Youngs drop to the bench where they are joined by newcomers Richie Gray, Justin Tipuric and Manu Tuilagi. The experienced Tom Croft and first Test tryscorer Alex Cuthbert lose their places on the bench from last week.
"It all comes down to Saturday - the winner takes all. We know we can leave nothing in the tank and that only a complete performance will get us across the line," said Gatland.
"Picking this team was not easy and ultimately, with several players available after recovering from injury, the head overruled the heart in many selection decisions. It has been a challenging tour and we have had our fair share of injuries but we always knew that would be the case.
"Brian O'Driscoll is a great player and has had a wonderful career but for the final Test in Sydney we just felt Jamie Roberts's presence offered us something more.
"Mike Phillips and Alex Corbisiero were first Test selections and would probably have played in the second Test if not for injury.
"Richard Hibbard, Toby Faletau and Sean O'Brien have also earned their starting places."
Lions (15-1) - Leigh Halfpenny; Tommy Bowe, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, George North; Jonathan Sexton, Mike Phillips; Toby Faletau, Sean O'Brien, Dan Lydiate; Geoff Parling, Alun Wyn Jones (capt); Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard, Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: Tom Youngs, Mako Vunipola, Dan Cole, Richie Gray, Justin Tipuric, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Manu Tuilagi.