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Iain Henderson set to make Lions bench as three Irishmen poised to start in first Test against South Africa

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Iain Hendeson is set for a spot on the Lions bench. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Iain Hendeson is set for a spot on the Lions bench. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Iain Hendeson is set for a spot on the Lions bench. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Ulster captain Iain Henderson looks set to be named on the bench for the Lions opening Test against South Africa on Saturday, with the announcement brought forward to 10am this morning.

England’s Maro Itoje was expected to the be the name rubber-stamped at lock and with the return of skipper Alun-Wyn Jones, Henderson is due to be named as a replacement with Courtney Lawes set to be given the nod in the back row.

Jones’ return to fitness made Henderson’s task infinitely more difficult and with Lawes and Adam Beard also vying for second row spots, there had been a possibility that he could miss out altogether.

Having been ruled out of the tour on June 26 thanks to a shoulder injury sustained in the win over Japan, Jones only returned to the squad last week and played 26 minutes off the bench against the Stomers last weekend.

Lawes will start alongside Ireland No 8 Jack Conan but his compatriot Conor Murray is expected to miss out on a place in the XV as Warren Gatland makes a number of surprise selections.

Widespread reports have suggested Conan will be rewarded for his excellent form on tour by being named ahead of Taulupe long-term Gatland favourite Faletau.

Although the Welsh man is struggling for form, Warren Gatland was expected to show faith in Faletau, one of his long-term servants. That good news on the Irish front will be offset by reports that Murray is set to be overlooked in favour of Ali Price.

The Munster scrum-half was named tour captain when the now fit-again Jones dislocated his shoulder before the squad departed for South Africa, however Gatland is expected to drop the Limerick native to the bench.

Tadhg Furlong and Robbie Henshaw look certain to make it three Irishman in the starting side, with Henderson, Murray and Tadhg Beirne and amongst the replacements.

Bundee Aki looks set to miss out entirely with Elliot Daly in line to start in midfield alongside Henshaw.

The Lions have brought their team announcement forward by a day, just as the Springboks did. Gatland will confirm his selection at 10am this morning.

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The Boks are boosted by the return from Covid-19 of influential captain Siya Kolisi and winger Makazole Mapimpi for Saturday’s first Test against the Lions, who will welcome confirmation that the entire series will be played in Cape Town at sea level, due to concerns surrounding the Delta variant of Covid-19 in the Gauteng region.

South Africa – W le Roux; C Kolbe, L Am, D de Allende, M Mapimpi; H Pollard, F de Klerk; O Nché, B Mbonambi, T Nyakane; E Etzebeth, F Mostert; S Kolisi (c), P-S du Toit, K Smith. Reps: M Marx, S Kitshoff, F Malherbe, L de Jager, R Elstadt, J Jantjies, E Jantjies, D Willemse.

Lions (probable) – S Hogg; A Watson, E Daly, R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, A Price; W Jones, L Cowan-Dickie, T Furlong; A-W Jones (c), M Itoje; C Lawes, T Curry, J Conan. Reps: K Owens, R Sutherland, K Sinckler, T Beirne, H Watson, I Henderson, C Murray, O Farrell.


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