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Lions Tour: No Irish players start as Stuart Hogg captains side for opening tour game

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Iain Henderson will be on the bench on Saturday. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Iain Henderson will be on the bench on Saturday. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Iain Henderson will be on the bench on Saturday. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Warren Gatland has stayed true to his commitment to offer every player a fair crack at the tour by rotating his entire starting XV for the Lions’ opening game on tour against the Gauteng Lions in Johannesburg.

As a result, there are no Irish players in the team after all seven played against Japan last Saturday. Bundee Aki and Iain Henderson are on the bench.

There is a strong Scottish flavour to the backline where Stuart Hogg captains the team from full-back, with Finn Russell and Ali Price at half-back.

After coming on at inside centre in the Japan game, Owen Farrell starts there alongside Chris Harris with Welsh wings Josh Adams and Louis Rees-Zammit outside them.

Up front, Wyn Jones joins Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler in the front-row, while Maro Itoje is partnered by his England teammate Jonny Hill in the engine room.

After Tadhg Beirne starred at blindside last weekend, Courtney Lawes gets his audition for the all-important auxiliary lock role in a back-row that sees Hamish Watson return from his concussion injury with Taulupe Faletau in at No 8.

On the bench, Exeter’s Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds are joined by Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson and Henderson, while Wales’ Gareth Davies covers the No 9 slot and Aki and Elliot Daly provide back-up from No 12 out.

“It’s good to have arrived in Johannesburg and get the Tour underway,” Gatland said.

“We had a pleasing win last week up in Edinburgh, but there’s still plenty we need to get right on Saturday.

“I’ve been encouraged by the way the boys have trained this week. I feel it’s gone up a level from where we were in Jersey and we’re starting to see a better understanding of some of our tactics.

“There’s some new player combinations for us to have a look at this Saturday – which is good information for us as the Test Series approaches.

“My congratulations to all those playing their first game as a Lion, and also to Hoggy too – who I am sure will lead the side by example.”

LIONS v LIONS, Ellis Park, Saturday, 5.0; Sky Sports

15. Stuart Hogg – captain (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783

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

13. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland)

12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780

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

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) #835

9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842

2. Jamie George (Saracens, England) #819

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

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825

5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England)

6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826

7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)

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

Replacements:

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

17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) – Prop #787

18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)

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

20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England)

21. Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales)

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

23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822


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