Irish stars miss out as Lions team named for First Test against South Africa
Three Ireland stars and three Scots in the Starting XV.
Warren Gatland has named his British & Irish Lions team for the First Test against the Springboks and, given the competitive nature of this 2021 squad, some bold calls were required.
Alun Wyn Jones captains the Lions this Saturday and Conor Murray, who had replaced him as tour captain for three weeks, must be content with a place on the bench.
The team is as reported by The Times on Tuesday, aside from a bench change. Liam Williams has been passed fit after a concussion, earlier in the tour, and takes the place that looked destined to go to Iain Henderson. The bench now has a 5:3 forwards to backs split, just like the Springboks.
The English starters are Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly in the backline, with Luke Cowan-Dickie, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry named in the pack. Kyle Sinckler and Owen Farrell have made the bench.
Ahead of the First Test, Lions assistant coach Neil Jenkins, who played on the successful 1997 tour to South Africa, was asked what was required to beat the world champion Springboks. He commented:
"I think it's across the board. From set-piece to the aerial game, your kicking game, playing in the right areas, your defence, your attack, taking the opportunities when they come as there won't be many for both sides. You need to be on the money full stop.
"I don't think there's one area specifically. We look at all areas, as do they. We'll certainly expect a big kicking game from the stuff I look after. Playing them with Wales in the World Cup semi-final, there was 70-odd kicks in that game. It could be close to that amount on Saturday. I'm not saying it will be, but it certainly could be a big aerial battle and we've got to come out on top."
15. Stuart Hogg
14. Anthony Watson
13. Elliot Daly
12. Robbie Henshaw
11. Duhan van der Merwe
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, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams.
The First Test takes place in Cape Town from 5pm this Saturday.
LISTEN TO HOUSE OF RUGBY'S LIONS SERIES: EPISODE 5