CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Alun Wyn Jones will captain the British and Irish Lions for their opening test against South Africa in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Welsh lock recovered from a dislocated left shoulder that had originally ruled him out of the tour and will be making his 10 successive test appearance for the Lions, the first player to do so in the professional era.
Jones’ inclusion in the starting lineup announced Wednesday comes after he played 25 minutes in the Lions’ final warmup match against the Stormers over the weekend, with head coach Warren Gatland and his team seemingly satisfied with his fitness.
“It’s a great boost to the squad and to everyone to have him back,” Gatland said. “It’s great in terms of him making a brilliant recovery to make himself available again. He had to run out the other day and spend some time on the pitch, so it’s fantastic.”
The fit-again Robbie Henshaw also starts as he partners Elliot Daly in midfield, while Danny Biggar and Ali Price are paired together at halfback.
There is no place in the matchday 23 for in-form winger Josh Adams or loose forward Taulupe Faletau.
Jack Conan instead anchors the scrum at number eight, with Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry on the flanks — the latter edging out Hamish Watson for the number seven jersey.
The other big calls by Gatland came in the front row where Luke Cowan-Dickie was picked at hooker, with Wyn Jones and Tadhg Furlong either side of him.
Gatland, who is involved with the Lions for a fourth successive tour and third as head coach, called the selection of this particular team his hardest thus far.
“In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest test selection I have been involved in,” he said. “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,” he continued, “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.”
The team: Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Danny Biggar, Ali Price; Jack Conan, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Tadhg Furlong, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Wyn Jones. Reserves: Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams.
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Read More: Alun Wyn Jones to captain Lions in 1st test vs South Africa 2021-07-21 09:51:52