Warren Gatland makes several surprising calls in his first Lions Test side to face South Africa; Josh Adams out of squad, in-form Tadhg Beirne on bench, Ali Price starts ahead of previous tour skipper Conor Murray, Elliot Daly at 13, no Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Taulupe Faletau in squad
Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British and Irish Lions in Saturday’s first Test vs South Africa
Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British and Irish Lions in their first Test vs South Africa on Saturday, while Ali Price, Elliot Daly, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Courtney Lawes all start.
Jones’ start in the second row completes his remarkable recovery, having injured his shoulder in an apparent dislocation playing for the Lions vs Japan at Murrayfield on June 26.
The Wales skipper was ruled out of the tour at that stage, and despite having missed all tour matches bar 27 minutes vs the Stormers on Saturday, Warren Gatland has drafted him straight back in for his 10th Lions Test in succession.
Elsewhere in the squad, Scotland’s Ali Price has been picked to start at scrum-half ahead of Ireland’s Conor Murray, with Gatland demoting Murray from tour skipper to a replacement in the space of less than a week.
Ali Price will start for the Lions at scrum-half vs the Boks ahead of the experience of Conor Murray
Elliot Daly, who many expected not to tour with the Lions this summer due to his poor form for England over the last year or so, starts the Test at outside-centre, having previously started just once at centre in a Test throughout his career – five years ago for England in 2016.
Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg has been picked to start at full-back ahead of Wales’ Liam Williams – who will provide back-three cover from the bench – in what will be the Scot’s first Lions Test on his third tour.
Elliot Daly, who many thought would not tour with the Lions this summer due to poor form, starts at 13 in a Test for the first time in five years and second time in his career
On the wings, England’s Anthony Watson and Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe have been picked to start, with the free-scoring Josh Adams omitted from the squad.
Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw at inside-centre and Wales’ Dan Biggar at out-half complete the back division, with England skipper Owen Farrell named on the bench.
In the forwards, Welshman Wyn Jones has won the loosehead battle to start over Scotland’s Rory Sutherland and England’s Mako Vunipola – the latter of whom fails to make a Lions Test squad for the first time in three tours.
England and Exeter’s Cowan-Dickie has been rewarded for his impressive performances at hooker, while Wales’ Ken Owens takes the replacement slot ahead of three-time Test Lion Jamie George.
Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie starts, with Ken Owens making the bench ahead of Jamie George
Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong is selected at tighthead as expected, with England’s Kyle Sinckler – who was left out of the original Lions squad of 37 by Gatland entirely – on the bench.
Maro Itoje partners Jones in the second row, while Courtney Lawes will start at blindside flanker – Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne beginning on the bench despite his superb displays on tour to date.
Alongside Lawes in the back-row, England’s Tom Curry has won the openside battle against Hamish Watson – with the Scot on the bench – while Ireland’s Jack Conan starts at No 8, with Wales’ four-time Test Lion Taulupe Faletau not in the squad.
The starting XV contains three Scotland players 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.
“In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in,” head coach Gatland said on Wednesday.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland has sprung a raft of surprises in his first Test selection
“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.
Sky Sports pundit Will Greenwood is shocked at the backline picked by Warren Gatland for the British and Irish Lions’ first Test against South Africa on Saturday
“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.”
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; 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Courtney Lawes, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Jack Conan.
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.