British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has wasted no time in steering into action recently arrived reinforcements Alun Wyn Jones and Marcus Smith.
DURBAN – British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has wasted no time in steering into action recently arrived reinforcements Alun Wyn Jones and Marcus Smith.
The pair have just arrived from the UK and the big lock has been included on the bench to face the Stormers on Saturday while Smith is straight in at flyhalf.
Smith is fresh from starring for England in their heavy defeats of the USA and Canada and is covering the injured Dan Biggar, while Jones will be completing an astonishing comeback.
Jones, the original tour captain, suffered what seemed to be a serious shoulder injury playing for the Lions against Japan in a warm-up game but three weeks later he has been cleared to rejoin the tour after coming through practice sessions with Wales.
The team to play the Stormers will be captained by Scottish fullback Stuart Hogg and it is a completely different starting XV from the one that went down 17-13 to South Africa A on Wednesday.
Irishman Robbie Henshaw returns from a hamstring injury to take his place in the midfield alongside Elliot Daly of England.
Josh Adams (Wales) also returns to the starting line-up following the birth of his daughter last night.
“It’s an important game as it’s the final chance for the coaching group to see the players perform prior to the start of the Test Series,” said Gatland.
“For this matchday 23, it’s their last opportunity to stake a claim for a Test place, so I expect to see a highly motivated group of players.
“It is particularly pleasing to be able to name Stuart Hogg in the squad. He’s not had much luck on Lions Tours to date, so it’ll be great to see him cross the whitewash again with the captain’s armband.
“I’m also delighted that Marcus will get his first start in a Lions jersey. I’ve been really impressed with his attitude since coming into camp this week; he’s been like a sponge for information.
“Obviously it’s a tight turnaround from Wednesday’s game but we’re in pretty good shape. The South Africa A game was a physical encounter – we always knew it would be – but we’ve come out of it pretty much intact and ready to go again. Liam Williams will begin his return to play protocol following his test for concussion.
“We learned a lot from Wednesday’s game and I hope the defeat will serve us well. There’re still some areas of the game we need to tighten up on, particularly reducing our turnover rate.
“Time and again on this tour we’ve had to adapt in the face of the challenges created by COVID-19. I couldn’t be prouder of the staff and the players for the role each of them has played to get us to this point on the Tour.”
B&I Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg 14 Josh Adams 13 Elliot Daly 12 Robbie Henshaw 11 Duhan van der Merwe 10 Marcus Smith 9 Ali Price 8 Jack Conan 7 Hamish Watson 6 Tadhg Furlong 5 Jonny Hill 4 Adam Beard 3 Tadhg Furlong 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie 1 Rory Sutherland.
Substitutes: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Chris Harris, Louis Rees-Zammit.