British & Irish Lions

Alun Wyn Jones leads Lions in opening Bok Test, Duhan van der Merwe on the wing

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Alun Wyn Jones in action against the Stormers. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Alun Wyn Jones in action against the Stormers. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British & Irish Lions in the first Test against South Africa at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday after a remarkably quick recovery from a shoulder injury.

The Wales lock and the most capped player in the sport's history, who only arrived in South Africa last Tuesday after recovering from the injury, will lead a team which contains several surprises.

The 35-year-old will make his 10th consecutive Lions Test appearance on his fourth Lions tour.

He suffered a dislocated shoulder in a pre-departure match against Japan and was ruled out of the tour.

But he proved his fitness while training in Wales and flew to South Africa in time to make a 26-minute appearance off the bench against the Stormers last weekend.

"In my four tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in," coach Warren Gatland said on Wednesday.

"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 South Africa 'A' last week we probably took a bit too long to get into the game, something we can't afford to do 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."

Scotland scrumhalf Ali Price was selected ahead of Ireland's Conor Murray, who was named tour skipper when Jones was initially ruled out.

Murray, who started in all three Tests on the 2017 Lions tour of New Zealand, arrived in South Africa as favourite to wear the number nine jersey but Price has impressed on tour.

Price will partner Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar in what is likely to be a crucial pairing.

Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie, with only six international starts, was preferred to fellow England front-rower Jamie George and Ken Owens of Wales.

Cowan-Dickie probably sealed his place with a man-of-the-match performance in last Saturday's win against the Stormers. He will scrum down in the front row with Wales' Wyn Jones and Ireland's Tadhg Furlong.

With South Africa having picked two relatively inexperienced prop forwards in Trevor Nyakane and Ox Nche in their starting team, the Lions will be looking to impose themselves in the scrums.

Alan Wyn Jones will be partnered at lock by England's Maro Itoje in a repeat of the pairing that did duty for the Lions in New Zealand four years ago.

Ireland's Jack Conan edged out Taulupe Faletau at No 8 in another selection seemingly based on tour form, with England pair Tom Curry and the towering Courtney Lawes completing the loose forward trio.

A surprise omission was Wales wing Josh Adams with Anthony Watson and South African-born Duhan van der Merwe selected.

Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg, on his third Lions tour, will win his first Test cap in the red jersey.

Elliot Daly and Robbie Henshaw will be the centres.

Ireland's Henshaw was preferred to England's Owen Farrell at inside centre despite playing for less than an hour against the Stormers in his only appearance on tour after recovering from a hamstring injury.

Saturday's Test kicks off at 18:00.


South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian Willemse

British & Irish Lions

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland), 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Elliot Daly (England), 12 Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), 11 Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Ali Price (Scotland), 8 Jack Conan (Ireland), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Courtney Lawes (England), 5 Alun Wyn Jones (captain, Wales), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Tadhg Furlong (Ireland), 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie (England), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)

Substitutes: 16 Ken Owens (Wales), 17 Rory Sutherland (Scotland), 18 Kyle Sinckler (England), 19 Tadhg Beirne (Ireland), 20 Hamish Watson (Scotland), 21 Conor Murray (Ireland), 22 Owen Farrell (England), 23 Liam Williams (Wales)

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