Alun Wyn Jones completes incredible recovery from dislocated shoulder to captain British and Irish Lions for first Test against South Africa, but Mako Vunipola and Toby Faletau are among Warren Gatland’s shock exclusions
- Warren Gatland has names his Lions side for the first Test against South Africa
- Alun Wyn Jones has made an incredible recovery to come in and captain side
- Ali Price, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jack Conan are among a host of surprise picks
Alun-Wyn Jones has been named as Lions captain for the opening Test against South Africa after what Warren Gatland described as the hardest selection of his career.
Jones will skipper a team loaded with surprise selections, including scrum-half Ali Price, hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and No 8 Jack Conan.
The Lions selection committee have opted for form over reputation, as they look to get off to a winning start at Cape Town Stadium.
Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British and Irish Lions after recovering form a serious injury
‘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.’
Gatland has overlooked the experience of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George and Toby Faletau.
Dan Biggar will start the first Test, while England’s Owen Farrell has been named on the bench
Up front, Wyn Jones starts at loosehead prop, with Tadhg Furlong selected at tighthead.
Maro Itoje partners Jones at lock, with the pair reforming their second-row partnership from the 2017 series in New Zealand. Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry join Jack Conan in the back-row.
‘We know what we’re coming up against on Saturday,’ said Gatland. ‘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.
Warren Gatland has called the selection the toughest he has faced in his entire career
‘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.’
Gatland’s backline is loaded with surprises.
As expected, Dan Biggar will partner Price in the half-backs.
Rather than opt for a battering ram midfield, Elliot Daly has been handed a shock start at 13, outside Robbie Henshaw.
Stuart Hogg starts at full-back, with elusive Anthony Watson and physical Duhan van der Merwe named on the wings.
Gatland has opted for a 5-3 split of forwards and backs on the bench.
Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne and Hamish Watson will provide back up for the forwards.
And England captain Owen Farrell also has to settle for a place among the replacements, alongside Conor Murray and Liam Williams.
BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS XV TO FACE SOUTH AFRICA, FIRST TEST
15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816
13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843
1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825
5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839
16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829
17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #840
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814
19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838
20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) #847
21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780
23. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833
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