The British & Irish Lions during Squad Training. Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Sportsfile
THREE Ireland players have been included in Warren Gatland's British and Irish side to take on the Springboks in the first Test at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, 5pm Irish time.
Munster Rugby's Conor Murray has lost out in the battle for the starting scrum-half position to Scotland's Ali Price.
Murray is joined among the replacements' for this weekend's Test by his Munster Rugby team mate Tadhg Beirne.
Tour captain Alun Wyn Jones will skipper the Lions having recovered from a dislocated shoulder sustained in the tourists 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield Stadium just 24 days ago.
In doing so, the Welsh lock will win his tenth-successive Test cap for the Lions in Cape Town, moving him into an illustrious list of Lions legends to have made 10 Test appearances or more, including Gareth Edwards (10), Graham Price (12), Mike Gibson (12) Dickie Jeeps (13) and Willie-John McBride (17). Jones is the first however to play 10 Tests for the famous touring side in the professional era.
The three Irish players included in the starting line-up are the Leinster trio of centre Robbie Henshaw, prop Tadhg Furlong and back-row Jack Conan.
The starting XV includes three Scots 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,” said Gatland.
“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.
“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.
“While the stands will be empty in Cape Town Stadium, we know Lions fans from across the home nations will be cheering us on back home. We’ll do our best to get the win.”
The much-anticipated clash against the reigning World Champions is the first of three Tests matches in the Castle Lager Lions Series to be shown live on Sky Sports.
SOUTH AFRICA v THE BRITISH & IRISH LIONS
Saturday, July 24
Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 5pm (BST)
15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816
13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822
12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843
1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825
5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839
16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829
17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #840
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814
19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838
20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) #847
21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780
23. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.