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Page last updated at 14:43 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 15:43 UK

Blair excited to make Lions bow

Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair
Blair will make his Lions debut in Saturday's opening tour match

Scotland scrum-half Mike Blair says he is relishing the prospect of making his British and Irish Lions debut.

Blair is one of three Scots in the 22-man squad and will be one of nine debutants in Saturday's opening tour match against a Royal XV.

"To be named on the tour in the first place was a big honour for me," Blair said ahead of the Rustenburg clash.

"But I don't really believe you're a Lion until you've pulled on the jersey and played a game."

Blair was called into the squad last month after Munster's Tomas O'Leary withdrew through injury and says he is eager to make his Lions bow.

And the Edinburgh scrum-half revealed the opening 10 days of the tour had been spent discussing tactics and that it would be a relief to get some playing time.

This is the first opportunity for me and I'm glad we can get it out the way early on the tour

Mike Blair

Blair said: "(Head coach) Ian McGeechan has talked about not picking his team for the first Test until the week of the Test, but he'll be looking at combinations to see how they work with each other.

"This is the first opportunity for me and I'm glad we can get it out the way early on the tour."

At 21, Ireland centre Keith Earls is the youngest debutant, with Tommy Bowe, Lee Byrne, Jamie Roberts, Andy Powell, Matthew Rees, Adam Jones and English flanker Joe Worsley also in line for their first Lions match.

The quartet from Leinster - Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald and Jamie Heaslip plus Leicester's Tom Croft and Harry Ellis and Northampton prop Euan Murray were not considered after their involvement in European finals last weekend.

McGeechan said: "I think it's really exciting we have a lot of players making their debuts. I remember my debut for the Lions against Western Transvaal in 1974, and it is a career highlight.

"For young men such as Keith Earls and Jamie Roberts it will be a day to remember and they will be thrilled to get an early taste of match action on the tour.

"While we have a lot of players making their Lions debuts, there is a huge amount of international experience in the team.

"The average age is 28 and that reflects the maturity we have in the squad."

The Lions will be looking to make a flying start when they tackle opponents largely drawn from Vodacom Cup winners the Griquas.

Lions team v Royal XV:

Lee Byrne (Ospreys/Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ospreys/Ireland), Keith Earls (Munster/Ireland), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Shane Williams (Ospreys/Wales); Ronan O'Gara (Munster/Ireland), Mike Blair (Edinburgh/Scotland); Andrew Sheridan (Sales Sharks/England), Matthew Rees (Scarlets/Wales), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Simon Shaw (London Wasps/England), Paul O'Connell (Munster/Ireland - captain), Joe Worsley (London Wasps/England), Martyn Williams (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Andy Powell (Cardiff Blues/Wales).
Replacements: Lee Mears (Bath/England), Phil Vickery (London Wasps/England), Alun-Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Stephen Ferris (Ulster/Ireland), Mike Phillips (Ospreys/Wales), Stephen Jones (Scarlets/Wales), Riki Flutey (London Wasps/England).

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see also
Earls given nod for Lions opener
28 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Springboks fail to impress in win
27 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions focus on breakdown battle
26 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions opponents name starting XV
26 May 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions will not replace Shanklin
18 May 09 |  Rugby Union
O'Connell handed Lions captaincy
21 Apr 09 |  Rugby Union
Lions squad selector
07 May 09 |  Rugby Union
2009 Lions: Squad & results
09 Jul 09 |  Rugby Union
BBC Sport Wales coverage
03 Oct 11 |  Wales
Rugby union positions guide
05 Feb 07 |  Laws & Equipment

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