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Sir Ian McGeechan’s British and Irish Lions Test XV to face South Africa in first Test

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Four-times Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan names his starting XV to face South Africa in the first Test on July 24; Stuart Hogg, Robbie Henshaw, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes, Duhan van der Merwe in; Rory Sutherland, Iain Henderson, Hamish Watson, Owen Farrell, Chris Harris, Dan Biggar in.

Four-time Lions head coach Sir Ian McGeechan (1989, 1993, 1997, 2009) has named who he would pick in the Lions' Test XV

Four-time Lions head coach Sir Ian McGeechan (1989, 1993, 1997, 2009) has named who he would pick in the Lions’ Test XV

After the British and Irish Lions’ 71-31 victory over the Cell C Sharks on Saturday, legendary former Lions coach Sir Ian McGeechan shared his starting Test XV to face Springboks…

With the Lions two weeks away from their three-Test series against the Boks, McGeechan, who led the Lions as head coach twice in South Africa (1997 and 2009), as well as to Australia in 1989 and New Zealand in 1993, has picked his 2021 XV.

There are some notable absentees, including Scotland captain Stuart Hogg, Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw, England pair Tom Curry and Courtney Lawes, and Scotland’s bulldozing wing Duhan van der Merwe – a measure of the task facing Warren Gatland and co when they sit down to pick the squad which will take on South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday, July 24.

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg is one of the more notable absentees in McGeechan's Test XV Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg is one of the more notable absentees in McGeechan’s Test XV

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Sir Ian McGeechan’s first Test Lions XV to face the Springboks:

15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Conor Murray (c); 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 Jamie George, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Iain Henderson, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Taulupe Faletau.

Forwards:

“Forwards wise, I just think you need the technical expertise first and foremost,” McGeechan told Sky Sports Rugby.

You’ve got to get the set piece right. I think Sutherland has gone well, Jamie George has been consistent and his lineout throwing is the best of anyone I believe, and that has to be right.

Jamie George is the most accurate lineout thrower the Lions have, says McGeechan Jamie George is the most accurate lineout thrower the Lions have, says McGeechan

“Tadhg Furlong is quite simply, to me, a world class tighthead, so he is going to be so important to the Lions in their set-piece but also around the field.

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“I think Henderson is coming through really well, he’s impressed me in his game involvement and he’s got the experience. Itoje is a big-match player, and again is skilful.

“In the back row, I think Tom Curry probably needs another start to really get involved, we haven’t really seen him come through yet.

“Hamish Watson has played consistently well, and Tadhg Beirne edges it at six for me. You need a big six because you have to get pressure on the set-piece, on the lineout.

Hamish Watson earns the nod at openside flanker, with Tom Curry out Hamish Watson earns the nod at openside flanker, with Tom Curry out

“And I think we have more to see from Faletau, but with two new Test Lions in the back-row [Beirne, Watson], having an experienced player who has drawn and won a series before is important.”

Backs:

“Dan Biggar is the form 10. He is a competitor, you see that in his attitude. And he’s the one that has the ability to draw out and adapt, attacking at different points.

Dan Biggar at 10 and Owen Farrell at 12 is how McGeechan would start vs the Boks Dan Biggar at 10 and Owen Farrell at 12 is how McGeechan would start vs the Boks

“Owen Farrell is a Test match animal. I wouldn’t go far without him to be honest. And having him gives you that second decision-maker and somebody to step in between the two of them.

“If you’ve got those two [Biggar, Farrell] in, you do need a big runner and good defensive player at 13. Harris is a very good defensive player. He’s a defensive captain, knows Steve Tandy well, knows the systems and did very well for Scotland.

Chris Harris is McGeechan's 13, with Robbie Henshaw not in due to not playing enough Chris Harris is McGeechan’s 13, with Robbie Henshaw not in due to not playing enough

“And then I have three players in the back [Adams, Watson, Liam Williams] who on any counter-attack or under high balls – which I think will happen a lot, South Africa tactically kicking from nine and 10 in the first Test – are solid.

Anthony Watson is in ahead of Duhan van der Merwe at this stage, says  McGeechan Anthony Watson is in ahead of Duhan van der Merwe at this stage, says McGeechan

“Van der Merwe won’t be far away, but I think you need the players who can deal with what South Africa put out there.

“If South Africa get their kicking wrong, then watch out, because there’s a back-three there who can actually turn half-chances into full chances.”

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