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British and Irish Lions: Maro Itoje and Finn Russell miss second game against Sharks

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Jamie George captained Lions in their rematch vs the Sharks on Saturday, which the tourists won 71-31; Courtney Lawes replaced Maro Itoje in the starting XV while Bundee Aki was named on the bench instead of Finn Russell

Maro Itoje was due to start in the second row on Saturday

Maro Itoje was due to start in the second row on Saturday

Maro Itoje and Finn Russell were ruled out of the Lions’ second game against the Sharks on Saturday, with Courtney Lawes and Bundee Aki replacing the pair.

Itoje was originally named to start in the second row, but a mild gastric bug ruled him out of the game, with Lawes promoted from the bench and Adam Beard named among the replacements.

Ireland international Aki joined the replacements in a straight swap with Russell, who was “managing an Achilles issue” according to the press release from the Lions.

Saracens and England hooker Jamie George captained the tourists on Saturday in what was a rematch against the Sharks. The tourists won the game 71-31 in Pretoria.

Courtney Lawes wore the No 4 jersey in the rematch against the Sharks Courtney Lawes wore the No 4 jersey in the rematch against the Sharks

After two positive Covid-19 Tests in camp on Wednesday – one player, one staff – left the squad in disarray to prepare for the first fixture against the Sharks, Friday saw a set of negative results returned in the PCR screening programme, giving the game a firm green light.

The player who initially produced a positive on Wednesday has since tested negative twice, but one player and three staff members remain in isolation at the team hotel as close contacts of the unnamed member of staff who tested positive on Wednesday.

The second fixture against the Durban-based Sharks replaces the scheduled tour match against the Bulls, who could not fulfil their place due to a Covid outbreak.

The latest side picked by Warren Gatland shows wholesale changes to the one which faced the Sharks on Wednesday, with only Elliot Daly at centre and Duhan van der Merwe on the wing retained.

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Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar were the intended half-backs for the first meeting until they were forced to quarantine but they start at Loftus Versfeld, while Anthony Watson makes his first start of the tour on the right wing.

Finn Russell is "managing an Achilles issue" according to the Lions Finn Russell is “managing an Achilles issue” according to the Lions

All of the players who were withdrawn from the original 23 because of the initial two positive tests are present except full-back Stuart Hogg, who faced a late fitness check because of a dead leg.

“It’s obviously been a slightly turbulent week, but we remain determined to keep rolling with the punches,” said Gatland on Friday.

“In many ways, the challenges we’ve faced this week have strengthened our resolve to do everything we can to overcome the challenges created by Covid.

“The feeling in the camp on Wednesday night was just to give it a crack – I was really proud by how everyone reacted, particularly the matchday squad who would have never prepared for a game like that before.

“Saturday is another opportunity to see how the boys go and for us as coaches to try out a few more combinations ahead of the Test series.

“I have long been an admirer of Jamie’s leadership skills, so I am delighted to name him skipper.

“We want to pass on thanks to the Sharks boys for fronting up and going again on Saturday. That’s the spirit of rugby, and a great chance for them to have another shot at us.”

Revised Lions team to face the Sharks: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 Jamie George (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Courtney Lawes, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Jack Conan.

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Tom Curry, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Bundee Aki.

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