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RUGBY UNION: Irish ace O'Driscoll set to lead Lions.

Byline: By MARK GARROD at Augusta

BRIAN O'DRISCOLL was set to be unveiled today as Ireland's first Lions captain for 22 years.

Sir Clive Woodward was due to unveil his 44-man British and Irish Lions squad to tour New Zealand this summer at midday.

And Leinster centre O'Driscoll looks a certainty for leadership duties, an honour last bestowed on an Irishman in 1983, when Ciaran Fitzgerald's reign proved a miserable one as New Zealand won the Test series 4-0.

O'Driscoll is poised t o head up a squad dominated by Englishmen, but Wales' reward as RBS 6 Nations Grand Slam winners is likely to be double-figure representation.

It is understood there will be few surprises in Woodward's party, yet England World Cup winners Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back can both expect places, despite retiring from Test rugby last year.

Jonny Wilkinson, Richard Hill, Julian White and Phil Vickery are all likely to join them - fitness permitting - but big--name casualties could include Wales flanker Colin Charvis, who made his return for Newcastle yesterday after three months out nursing a foot injury.

Fitness issues are certain to dominate the announcement at a Heathrow hotel, especially England and Newcastle fly-half Wilkinson's state of health.

He has not played international rugby since his drop-goal won the World Cup in Sydney 17 months ago Woodward, of course, will not shun the Welsh or the Irish, and he will probably pick the handful of Scots good enough to travel.

But England will have the biggest single representation - possibly up t o 20 - as experience, in Woodward's eyes, counts for everything
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 11, 2005
Words:264
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