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26th Jul 2021

Bundee Aki backed to face Springboks as three Lions changes predicted

Patrick McCarry

Bundee Aki

“They’ll be going, ‘Let’s play here. When we actually keep the ball, we look very dangerous’.”

The British & Irish Lions are 1-0 up in their best-of-three Test Series with the Springboks, and have a chance to put the contest to bed this weekend. Bundee Aki could help tuck this one in.

The Lions looked rusty and all-too-human in the opening 40 minutes of Saturday’s First Test against South Africa. Whatever was said, and changed, at the break had the desired effect as they went on to win 22-17, after over-turning a 10-point deficit.

With a chance to join the legendary tour sides of 1974 and 1994 and beat the Boks in a series, on their home turf, selection for the Second Test needs to be spot-on. Even though Warren Gatland has another big Test win in the bank, just about everyone will weigh in with an opinion when his next XV is announced at 10am on Tuesday morning.

On the latest House of Rugby Lions Series episode, [LISTEN from 40:30 below], Seán O’Brien, Alex Goode and Greig Laidlaw debated the best Second Test selection calls, and made some interesting suggestions.

“They might make a couple of changes,” Greig Laidlaw mused.

“The [outside] centre position might be up for discussion. I thought Rory Sutherland did well [at loosehead] but Mako Vunipola did well, when he came on, so they might look at that.” Laidlaw added:

“I’m not so sure how Dan Biggar, Robbie Henshaw [at 13] and Owen Farrell [at 12] would work. If they change anything, they might move Bundee Aki into 12 and move Henshaw out one.

“Elliot Daly did some good things, and they seem to be a big fan of him, so I don’t know. Potentially, that is something they may look at. In second-guessing South Africa, Damian De Allende is probably going to come down that channel a lot more, and be route one; simplify it. The Lions may look to combat that a little, and free up Henshaw a lot.”

Robbie Henshaw on the charge against the Springboks. (Credit: Sportsfile)

For Seán O’Brien, if Wales prop Wyn Jones is fit, he would give him the No.1 jersey, which was the original First Test plan before his shoulder flared up. He would go Vunipola on the bench and make the ‘tough call’ to drop Sutherland.

“Wyn Jones is just immovable,” said O’Brien. “He might just steady up that Lions set-piece.”

The two-time Lions tourist believes the rest of the Lions pack will stay the same, and he backed Courtney Lawes to do a job again.

As for the back three, Alex Goode wants Liam Williams in for Duhan van der Merwe on the left wing. Goode wants a scrumhalf change too:

“It’s not that Ali Price played badly,” he reasoned, “it’s just, Conor Murray brings that experience and physicality, especially if De Allende is coming down that 9/10 channel.”

The Saracens and England star was out-voted (two-to-one) by Laidlaw and O’Brien so Price stays in the House of Rugby Lions XV. Funnily enough, it is the same starting 15 as we selected on Sunday.

O’Brien pointed out how crucial Murray and Farrell were in closing the game out, from the bench, and they provide another “incredible” option for Saturday’s second tilt at the Boks.


15. Stuart Hogg
14. Anthony Watson
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Liam Williams
10. Dan Biggar
9. Ali Price

1. Wyn Jones
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie
3. Tadhg Furlong
4. Alun Wyn Jones (c)
5. Maro Itoje
6. Courtney Lawes
7. Tom Curry
8. Jack Conan

REPLACEMENTS: Ken Owens, Mako Vunipola, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Duhan van der Merwe.

Following last week’s team news leak, Warren Gatland will officially confirm his team at 10am on Tuesday.