The starting XV and the substitutes in full for the warm-up of the tour in South Africa
With limited preparation time, Warren Gatland lines up several proven combinations in his British and Irish Lions squad to face Japan in Saturday’s preparation match in Edinburgh ahead of the South Africa tour.
Robbie Henshaw and surprise pick Bundee Aki will debut together in crosses, echoing the mix of cunning and strength that so impressed the Lions head coach when Ireland beat England at the Six Nations in March.
Welshmen Liam Williams and Josh Adams are together in the final three, while Scottish props Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson will start on familiar Murrayfield ground as Sutherland has recovered from a shoulder injury.
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Gatland also hopes to experience the running backs, pairing Conor Murray and Dan Biggar, both of whom toured with the Lions in 2017.
The Saracens’ Jamie George and Owen Farrell appear on the bench, although they only flew to join the team’s training camp in Jersey on Monday, with limited resources in the hooker and running back positions. opening during the first sessions of last week.
Perhaps the most revealing selection is Munster’s Tadhg Beirne with the blind flank, as she gives the Lions the racing power and the third roster option they indicated when the tour squad was announced in April.
Wales openside Justin Tipuric has been called up to replace Hamish Watson, who suffered a concussion in training on Tuesday. Irishman Jack Conan rounds out the back row, with Taulupe Faletau and versatile Courtney Lawes on a Lions bench which – for now at least – sees a 5-3 distribution of forwards and fullbacks.
Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones will be the team captain a week before the first match of the actual tour against the Emirates Lions (minus their current Springboks) in Johannesburg.
Lions old and new can set a milestone in the Scottish capital – although Gatland has promised the 37 squad at least one start before the first test in Cape Town on July 24.
The starting 15 without England can be explained – in part – by the players of Saracens, Bristol and Sale who only finished their club seasons last weekend, while the four representatives of Exeter are still busy preparing for this weekend’s Premiership final at Twickenham.
The Lions team against Japan
- Dated: Saturday June 26, 2021
- Kick-off time: 3 p.m.
- Location: Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh
- TV channel: Channel 4 (coverage from 2.15 p.m.)
- Direct: Every 4
- Strong points: Every 4
The status of the test is unclear
The Lions will decide later in the year whether the warm-up match with Japan is to count as a full test match – perhaps reflecting the months of uncertainty surrounding this summer’s tour.
The decision is made by the Lions board of directors in consultation with the “Club 1888”, made up of former players, and they will be decided after the tour of South Africa ends in July and August.
As has been the practice since the Lions began reviewing their history a few years ago, all new team players who appear in this match will receive a physical cap and player number, and become a member of Club 1888, who will count on the appearance record of the Lions.
But the question of whether it will be capped internationally and seen as a “test” in globally recognized statistics is still under discussion.
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