The British & Irish Lions make three changes to the team they hope will repel the Springboks' backlash
The British & Irish Lions have made three changes to the team they hope will repel the Springboks' backlash in Saturday's second Test in Cape Town.
The Lions‚ who triumphed 22-17 in Cape Town last Saturday‚ have elevated scrumhalf Conor Murray‚ prop Mako Vunipola and outside centre Chris Harris to the starting XV.
The three selections carry varying degrees of surprise.
Although Murray was earmarked as a Test starter in the series‚ he had seen little tour action by the time the first Test came around and Scotland's Ali Price seemed to seize the moment. His service was crisp and he landed some impeccable contestable kicks in the second half. Still‚ Murray's experience and ruggedness in what should be an even fiercer battle got him the nod.
The same‚ perhaps‚ holds true for Vunipola‚ who delivered a strong second half performance last week. Harris is in to plug whatever gaps the Boks were hoping to exploit again in midfield‚ which means Elliot Daly drops to the bench. His big left boot could prove invaluable deep in the game. Alun Wyn Jones was named captain to win his 11th successive Lions Test cap. The Welshman is again partnered by last week's man of the match Maro Itoje.
Flyhalf Dan Biggar will play subject to completing the return-to-play protocol and assessment by an independent concussion consultant. Welsh loose forward Taulupe Faletau was added to a bench.
“As always‚ selection was incredibly tough‚” said coach Warren Gatland. “However‚ we’ve made the changes we think are the right calls for the weekend’s game.”
Gatland fully expects the Springboks to be fired up to level the series. “It’ll be another tight contest. We know the Springboks will be hurting and they’ll throw everything at us on Saturday‚ but I think there’s plenty more to come from us too. We feel we can go up another level from where we were in the first Test and I would expect us to improve.
“It’s the biggest game on the tour and we have to embrace the expectation that comes with it. As players and coaches‚ these are the games you want to be involved in. We’re relishing the opportunity to face the Springboks again on Saturday and potentially seal a series win.”
Having won the first Test the Lions are very much in the pound seats. The Lions have lost just two series after winning the first Test (against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001). The Springboks also made three changes to their starting team with props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe occupying jerseys numbered one and three respectively‚ while Jasper Wiese is the new No 8.
British & Irish Lions (for the second Test against the Springboks) - Stuart Hogg (Scotland); Anthony Watson (England)‚ Chris Harris (Scotland)‚ Robbie Henshaw (Ireland)‚ Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland); Dan Biggar (Wales)‚ Conor Murray (Ireland); Jack Conan (Ireland)‚ Tom Curry (England)‚ Courtney Lawes (England); Alun Wyn Jones (captain‚ Wales)‚ Maro Itoje (England); Tadgh Furlong (Ireland)‚ Luke Cowan Dickie (England)‚ Mako Vunipola (England).
Substitutes: Ken Owens (Wales)‚ Rory Sutherland (Scotland)‚ Kyle Sinckler (England)‚ Tadhg Beirne (Ireland)‚ Taulupe Faletau (Wales); Ali Price (Scotland)‚ Owen Farrell (England)‚ Elliot Daly (England).