Test starter: Lions captain Sam Warburton will likely lead the out against Australia in Brisbane in 11 days time

By Owain Jones

FOUR GAMES, one proper contest, and the Lions bandwagon rolls on. Every player has now been cast into the fray, bar a hamstrung Rob Kearney and jet-lagged Simon Zebo, so it’s time to have a stab at picking Warren Gatland’s Test side for the first Test in Brisbane.

We’re sure this will provoke debate, but what self-respecting Lions XV wouldn’t? Tell us what you think @Rugbyworldmag

1. Mako Vunipola – Big brother of Big Billy, Mako has been one of the surprise packages of this tour. The young Saracen is a work in progress scrummaging-wise, but he delivered a tour de force against the Queenland Reds in the loose, offering himself as a receiver and tackling with ferocity. He’s earnt his opportunity

2. Richard Hibbard – Admittedly he had a lineout wobble against the Combined Country XV, but Hibbard’s 17st 4lb frame may just edge him ahead of the more mobile Tom Youngs, who will figure as the game breaks up. His ability to hit ruck after ruck with venom, thunderbolt tackling and an ability to break the gainline in the tight channels will soften up the Wallabies early on

3. Adam Jones – The old master is a shoo-in for the Test team. Jones’ technical ability means he is rarely bested by his opposite number and his work in the loose has improved over time – you often see him popping passes or making tackles. He’ll hate you for saying it, but he’s a thoroughly modern prop

Mako force: Vunipola has had an excellent tour

4. Richie Gray – Gray has had a tendency to drift in an out of games internationally, but on the Lions tour, he has matured. An asset in the loose, for such a tall man with an upright running stance, he rarely fails to cross the gainline in the tackle

5. Paul O’Connell – Since returning from injury in March, O’Connell has played like a one-man crusade. The big Munsterman has the look of someone who wants to make a statement in his final tour. One of the group’s leaders, he makes the hard yards, drives the pack and provides much-needed composure at the set-piece

6. Dan LydiateTom Croft, Sean O’Brien. The toughest position of all to call but Gatland is looking for balance. For that reason, Lydiate fresh from two 80-minute performances, is selected. Unselfish and unafraid of the dirty work, Lydiate’s remit will be to cut the dangerous Wallaby attackers off at source

7. Sam Warburton (c) – After seven weeks out, Warburton needs game time, which he should get against the Waratahs on Saturday. The qualities that define him as a player are his strength on the deck at the breakdown and prodigious workrate. As a captain, it’s his ability to lead by example and purportedly reason with the referee

8. Jamie Heaslip – There were many who said Heaslip was a spent force during a chastening Six Nations but the County Kildare man has timed his run into form to perfection, helping Leinster to an Amlin Challenge Cup and a RaboDirect Pro12 final wins. He was at his buccaneering best against Western Force and edges out Toby Faletau by a cigarette paper

Renaissance man: Jamie Heaslip has run into form

9. Mike Phillips – Phillips was imperious against the Barbarians. A snarling ball of aggression who presented untold problems for the opposition around the fringes. He is also a proven Test Match Animal who relishes the biggest of occasions to showcase his unique skills

10. Jonny Sexton – The Lions’ most important player. Sexton’s tight hamstring must be treated lovingly over the next week and a half, as he will dictate the tempo for the Lions in the Test series. Not lacking in self-confidence, with acute game management, Sexton is a perfect foil to mobilize the jumbo-sized backs outside him

11. George North – Frighteningly, not long turned 21, North has shown he is a man to be feared on the flank, as well as No 13. His 70-metre break against the Reds was eye-catching, but what marks him out as one of the world’s best is his intelligent use of the ball. He rarely takes a wrong decision

12. Jamie Roberts – Roberts is a trusted Gatland Lieutenant and his management of the Lions backline defence will be key to the outcome of the series. A brave and intelligent player, Roberts’ ability to pick a line and break the gainline in the tight channels will see him reprising the spirit of ’09 with BOD

Points machine: Halfpenny looks certain to start

13. Brian O’Driscoll – Any doubts about the battered O’Driscoll body withstanding a few more weeks punishment have been dispelled against Western Force and Combined Country XV. O’Driscoll has hared around the field with the zip of a man a decade younger, with a big smile on his face. Watertight in defence, he’s the wise old sage you need in a white-hot test

14. Alex Cuthbert – Tommy Bowe was inked in but there are long odds for him to be fit for the first Test so the rangy Cuthbert gets the nod. There are few better finishers in the game – he has three tries in two starts – and he also has the knack of scoring at key times, as proved with tries in consecutive title deciders in the Six Nations

15. Leigh Halfpenny – Mr Reliable. That Halfpenny will be rock solid under a high-ball, brave in the tackle and sure-footed on the gallop is now a given, such is the boy from Gorseinon’s consistency. Yet he is now among the finest place kickers in the world. There was almost an audible gasp when he missed a conversion against Combined Country XV

Bench: Ryan Grant, Tom Youngs, Dan Coles, Alun Wyn Jones, Sean O’Brien, Ben Youngs, Owen Farrell, Stuart Hogg