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Conor Murray to lead British and Irish Lions vs South Africa ‘A’; Anthony Watson starts at full-back

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Munster and Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray named to captain the British and Irish Lions in a team announcement for the first time vs South Africa ‘A’ in Cape Town on Wednesday; Murray replaced the injured Alun Wyn Jones as captain for tour; Anthony Watson starts at full-back

Munster and Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray has been named to captain the Lions in a team announcement for the first time

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Munster and Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray has been named to captain the Lions in a team announcement for the first time

Conor Murray has been named to captain the British and Irish Lions from the start for the first time on Wednesday, as the Lions face a South Africa ‘A’ side in Cape Town. 

Elsewhere, Warren Gatland has made 12 changes to his starting XV, with only Chris Harris in the centre, Dan Biggar at 10 and Anthony Watson, who shifts from wing to full-back, retained from the 71-31 victory over the Sharks on Saturday.

So far on tour, Stuart Hogg and Liam Williams have started in the full-back slot, with Josh Adams used as an auxiliary 15 in the first of two meetings against the Sharks.

England's Anthony Watson swaps from wing to full-back for the clash with South Africa 'A' England’s Anthony Watson swaps from wing to full-back for the clash with South Africa ‘A’

On the wings, Welsh pair Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams come in, looking to add to try totals of two and eight respectively for the Lions so far, while Ireland’s Bundee Aki joins Scotland’s Harris in midfield – the latter pushed out from 12 to 13.

Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw, who came on tour as the form centre within the squad and hotly tipped for a Test place, remains absent due to a hamstring injury.

Murray and Wales’ Biggar combine at half-back in what is now most people’s predicted Test pairing, while Wales looshead Wyn Jones, Wales hooker Ken Owens and England tighthead Kyle Sinckler make up the front row.

The second row sees England’s Maro Itoje – who returns from a stomach bug – partner Ireland’s Iain Henderson, which, once more, is a combination favoured for the Tests by many at this stage.

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Second row Maro Itoje has overcome a stomach bug to start which saw him withdraw from Saturday's Lions squad  Second row Maro Itoje has overcome a stomach bug to start which saw him withdraw from Saturday’s Lions squad

In the back-row, England’s Tom Curry will get a further chance to press his Test claims having replaced Hamish Watson at openside, while Welsh duo Josh Navidi and Taulupe Faletau are brought in at blindside and No 8 respectively.

“We’re pleased to have arrived in Cape Town as we near the halfway stage of the Series,” Gatland said on Monday.

“Wednesday’s game against South Africa ‘A’ will be our toughest encounter since we arrived here and we are looking forward to it. We expect them to be physical in the contact area and look to test us at scrum time.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland expects Wednesday's encounter vs South Africa 'A' to be the toughest on tour so far Lions head coach Warren Gatland expects Wednesday’s encounter vs South Africa ‘A’ to be the toughest on tour so far

“I think we’ve benefitted from playing at altitude in the first three games. While the boys have felt it in their lungs, they will be all the better for it now we are at sea level.

“As we move towards the business end of the Tour, it’s pleasing to see so many players putting in some stand-out performances. As coaches we want the players to make Test selection as hard as possible and that’s we are seeing.”

British and Irish Lions: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Conor Murray (c); 1 Wyn Jones, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Iain Henderson, 6 Josh Navidi, 7 Tom Curry, 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Tadhg Beirne, 21 Sam Simmonds, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Elliot Daly.

Wednesday’s action vs South Africa ‘A’ in Cape Town is live and exclusive on Sky Sports Action and Main Event from 6pm.

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