Lions Tour - Australia's Folau in uncapped trio to face Lions

Israel Folau's stunning rise in his third football code has been stamped with selection in Australia's starting side for the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Brisbane on Saturday.

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Wallabies fullback Israel Folau (L) and teammate Christian Leali'ifano (AFP)

Israel Folau's stunning rise in his third football code has been stamped with selection as one of three new caps in the Australia side to face the British and Irish Lions at Lang Park on Saturday.

The 24-year-old former rugby league international, who moved to union after a two-year spell playing Australian Rules, was named on the wing for the clash just four months after making his senior rugby debut.

Folau faces a baptism of fire along with fellow debutants Christian Leali'ifano, who starts at inside centre, and blindside flanker Ben Mowen in a match coach Robbie Deans said would be a "battle of wills".

Deans had always said he would be reluctant to blood new players in the intensity of a first Lions Test but was confident the trio would be up to the challenge.

"Most importantly they've earned that right through their play," the New Zealander told a news conference after naming the team on Thursday.

"Benny is a hugely experienced player at Super Rugby level now, he's led, he's equipped and he's ready to go and he's proved that against his peers. No qualms there, he's risen to those challenges.

"Izzy, it's not really a debut, he's played international sport before."

While Mowen's inclusion was forced on Deans by an injury to Scott Higginbotham, Leali'ifano's selection was something of a surprise as his more experienced ACT Brumbies team mate Pat McCabe was expected to occupy the number 12 shirt.

Deans described Leali'ifano as a "well-rounded player" who would "open up the edges", an indication that the former fly-half was expected to bring a more expansive game to the position than McCabe's hard, straight running.

Leali'ifano's provincial skipper Mowen said he had no doubt the 25-year-old, who missed out on an almost certain Test debut last year after breaking his ankle, would rise to the occasion.

"This game will suit Christian perfectly, he's a massive pressure player and he's done it time and again for the Brumbies," he said.

"If there's a pressure shot to be taken, he's the guy you want to be taking it. He's a guy that wants to be challenged in those hard environments.

"People were questioning whether he could go on after the injury last year but he's taken it to another level this year and I think that says loads about his character."

Mowen will call the lineouts and partners openside Michael Hooper and number eight Wycliff Palu in a back row ready for a big battle with the Lions pack.

"You know what they're going to bring. Strong set piece. They're going be good at the lineout, good at the scrum, good at the maul, good at the pick and drive stuff," Mowen said.

"If we're not doing our jobs from one to eight then we're not going to give our guys in the backs opportunities."

As expected James O'Connor starts at fly-half in a halfback pairing with scrumhalf Will Genia, while Berrick Barnes, the most experienced Test number 10 in the squad, has been named at fullback.

With another former Wallabies fly-half in Kurtley Beale on the bench, O'Connor, who is expected to be handed goalkicking duties, said he would not be looking to dictate the game on his own.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said O'Connor. "I've got some good guys around me who can control the game really well. If we can take that into the game, we can play some good footy."

Deans said he had no qualms that Beale, who has played scarcely more than half an hour of top-flight rugby in nearly four months due to battles with injury and alcohol problems, would be ready if called upon.

The inexperienced Kane Douglas won the race to partner skipper James Horwill in the second row, edging Rob Simmons onto the bench in a strong indication of what Deans expects from the match.

"Kane's a very physical player and that first 20 or 30 is going to be very physical," he said.

"He's got what's required, and so has Rob obviously, there's not much in it, it's just the way we decided to piece them together from the first minute to the last."

Australia team - 15-Berrick Barnes, 14-Israel Folau, 13-Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12-Christian Leali'ifano, 11-Digby Ioane, 10-James O'Connor, 9-Will Genia; 8-Wycliff Palu, 7-Michael Hooper, 6-Ben Mowen, 5-James Horwill, 4-Kane Douglas, 3-Ben Alexander, 2-Stephen Moore, 1-Benn Robinson

Replacements - 16-Saia Fainga'a, 17-James Slipper, 18-Sekope Kepu, 19-Rob Simmons, 20-Liam Gill, 21-Nick Phipps, 22-Pat McCabe, 23-Kurtley Beale

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