Gatland makes his 'toughest' selection public
TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has named his side for the first Test against the Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.
Tour captain Alun Wyn Jones will skipper the B&I Lions, having recovered from a dislocated shoulder sustained in the tourists 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield Stadium just 24 days ago.
In doing so, the Welsh lock will win his 10th-successive Test cap for the B&I Lions in Cape Town – moving him into an illustrious list of Lions legends to have made 10 Test appearances or more.
These include Gareth Edwards (10), Graham Price (12), Mike Gibson (12) Dickie Jeeps (13) and Willie-John McBride (17).
Jones, however, is the first to play 10 Tests for the famous touring side in the professional era.
The iconic Welshman will be joined in the second row by Maro Itoje, who claims his fourth successive Lions Test cap.
Elsewhere, Wyn Jones, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tadhg Furlong make up the front row.
Courtney Lawes packs down on the blindside flank to win his third B&I Lions Test appearance, having won his previous two from the bench in the second and third Tests in New Zealand in 2017.
Tom Curry is named on the open side, with Jack Conan filling the No.8 shirt.
After impressing against the Stormers last Saturday, scrumhalf Ali Price joins No.10 Dan Biggar in the halfback berths.
Robbie Henshaw, who made his comeback from a hamstring injury last weekend, partners Elliot Daly in midfield.
Anthony Watson wins his fourth B&I Lions Test cap, as he takes his spot on the wing opposite Duhan van der Merwe, with fellow Scot Stuart Hogg rounding off the side at fullback.
The starting XV includes three Scots for the first time since the 1997 tour to South Africa – when current Lions assistant coach Gregor Townsend was named alongside Alan Tait and Tom Smith for the first and second Tests.
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Ladies and gentlemen, the British & Irish Lions would like to introduce you to… Scrum & Bass 🎧
Our first week in Cape Town was action-packed as preparations ramped up 💪
— British & Irish Lions (@lionsofficial) July 20, 2021
“In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in,” said Gatland.
“We couldn’t have asked for more from the players so far; they’ve all put their hands up and made picking a starting XV incredibly difficult. In truth, we would have been happy with any number of different combinations across the 23, however, we’re very pleased with the side we’ve settled on.
“We know what we’re coming up against on Saturday.
“It’s going to be an arm wrestle, there’s no doubt about it.
“We’ll need to front up physically and be ready to go from the first whistle.
“When we played SA ‘A’ last week we probably took a bit too long to get into the game, something we can’t afford to do that again this weekend.
“We need to make sure we play in the right areas of the field, not give them easy territory and take our chances when they come.
“While the stands will be empty in Cape Town Stadium, we know Lions fans from across the home nations will be cheering us on back home. We’ll do our best to get the win.”
British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Liam Williams.
Date: Saturday, July 24
Venue: Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 18.00 (17.00 BST; 16.00 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Mathieu Raynal (France)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)