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Skipper Murray returns for latest Lions clash

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Skipper Murray returns for latest Lions clash

Conor Murray

Ireland’s Conor Murray will captain the British & Irish Lions for the first time in Wednesday evening’s clash with South Africa ‘A’, their fifth outing of the 2021 Tour.

The countdown to the first of three Tests against the Springboks on July 24 is firmly on, with Murray – who replaced the injured Alun Wyn Jones as Tour skipper – poised for his first start in the No.9 jersey since the 28-10 victory over Japan.

Since then Warren Gatland’s men have seen off the Sigma Lions and the Cell C Sharks twice, and the head coach has opted to make 12 changes for their latest challenge, in Cape Town.

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England’s Anthony Watson, Scotland’s Chris Harris and Wales’ Dan Biggar are the only players retained from the side who overcame the Sharks 71-31 last time out, with Watson shifting to full-back and Harris moving to outside centre.

Welsh pair Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams join Watson in the back three, with Ireland’s Bundee Aki completing the midfield alongside Harris, and Biggar joining Murray in the half-backs.

Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Kyle Sinckler make up the front row with Maro Itoje and Iain Henderson the locks. The back row consists of flankers Josh Navidi and Tom Curry, and No.8 Taulupe Faletau.

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“We’re pleased to have arrived in Cape Town as we near the halfway stage of the Series,” said Gatland.

“Wednesday’s game against South Africa ‘A’ will be our toughest encounter since we arrived here and we’re looking forward to it. We expect them to be physical in the contact area and look to test us at scrum time.

“I think we’ve benefited from playing at altitude in the first three games. While the boys have felt it in their lungs, they’ll be all the better for it now we’re at sea level.

“As we move towards the business end of the Tour, it’s pleasing to see so many players putting in some stand-out performances. As coaches we want the players to make Test selection as hard as possible and that’s we’re seeing.”

The British & Irish Lions starting XV: 

15. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816

14. Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales) #846

13. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland) #844

12. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) #837

11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) #836

10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821

9. Conor Murray – Captain (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842

2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829

3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825

5. Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland) #808

6. Josh Navidi (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) #854

7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853

8. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) #779

Replacements: 

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851

17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) #787

18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #848

19. Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales) #852

20. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838

21. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England) #849

22. Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales) #850

23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822