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Warren Gatland dismisses second South Africa ‘A’ warm-up for the Lions

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Iain Henderson is poised for a start tomorrow

Iain Henderson is poised for a start tomorrow

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Sympathetic: Warren Gatland understands South Africa’s predicament

Sympathetic: Warren Gatland understands South Africa’s predicament

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

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Iain Henderson is poised for a start tomorrow

Warren Gatland has ruled out the possibility of repeating tomorrow evening’s British and Irish Lions versus South Africa ‘A’ fixture again on Saturday.

The game in Cape Town has taken on the feel of a fourth Test following the South Africans flooding their supposed second-string side with star names in an effort to get their big-hitters game time after last week’s cancellation against Georgia.

Cheslin Kolbe, Faf de Klerk, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and more will all be getting an unexpectedly early look at the tourists.

And after naming such a surprisingly strong selection, Rassie Erasmus revealed that he wanted another go at the Lions this weekend before the proper start of the Test series seven days later.

Gatland, though, has rejected such a plan outright, stating plainly: “No, we won’t be playing them on Saturday.”

The Lions coach, who will make a decision imminently on whether original skipper Alun Wyn Jones will make a shock return to the tour after a “remarkable recovery” from a dislocated shoulder, added that he understood the logic of the hosts fielding a starting team that contained 11 World Cup winners still a week-and-a-half out from the first Test.

“It’s perfectly understandable because they feel like they’re underdone and need a hit-out or two,” he said. “What they’ll look to do on Saturday I’m not too sure but I’m presuming they’ll be looking for a match with some of the other players in the squad that haven’t played.”

Conor Murray will captain the side tomorrow, one of four Irishmen involved with Bundee Aki and Ulster’s Iain Henderson also getting starts and Tadhg Beirne on the bench.

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Sympathetic: Warren Gatland understands South Africa’s predicament

Sympathetic: Warren Gatland understands South Africa’s predicament

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

Sympathetic: Warren Gatland understands South Africa’s predicament

The Munster scrum-half, captaining the side for the first time since succeeding Jones thanks to missing out last week through his designation as a ‘close contact’, believes that the sight of so many Springboks tomorrow will ramp up the intensity of a tour that so far has seen the Lions sweep aside all opposition.

"I think it's going to be pretty much a Test match looking at their line-up,” he said ahead of again pairing up with Wales’ Dan Biggar at half-back.

“It’s going to be a really intense game. Since we've arrived in Cape Town, I think people have switched into a little bit more of a serious mode with the prep and the edge that we have in training.

“Now, having seen that South Africa 'A' line-up, it's only going to sharpen our focus even more.

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“It's going to be a real battle.

“It's a massive challenge and it's good prep for what's to come.”

Meanwhile, the IRFU have confirmed that New Zealand will visit Dublin in November.

The All Blacks will meet Andy Farrell’s men at the Aviva Stadium for the first time since 2018 in a repeat of their World Cup quarter-final clash in Japan.

Taking place on November 13, it will be the middle fixture of three home games this autumn with Japan and Argentina the visitors either side.

As previously confirmed, Ireland will first meet the USA in Las Vegas on October 30.

British and Irish Lions team to face South Africa ‘A’: A Watson; L Rees-Zammitt, C Harris, B Aki, J Adams; D Biggar, C Murray (capt); W Jones, K Owens, K Sinckler; M Itoje, I Henderson; J Navidi, T Curry, T Faletau.

Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie, M Vunipola, Z Fagerson, A Beard, T Beirne, S Simmonds, G Davies, E Daly.


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