WARREN GATLAND has gone with who he knows best in calling up Welshmen Adam Beard and Josh Navidi to his Lions squad which will fly out to South Africa tomorrow evening, in place of injured duo Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric.
Meanwhile, Irish scrum-half Conor Murray has taken over captaincy of the squad from Jones.
While Jones was ruled out of the tour by Gatland due to a shoulder dislocation immediately after this [Saturday] afternoon’s pre-tour hit-out against Japan at Murrayfield, the head coach had been hopeful that a scan on Tipuric’s shoulder would clear him to take part in the expedition, but that has clearly not been the case.
“We’re all incredibly disappointed for Alun Wyn and Justin,” said former Wales head coach Gatland. “The timing of these injuries seem particularly cruel given we fly to South Africa tomorrow, but unfortunately they’re part of the game.
“Alun Wyn will obviously be a big loss, both on and off the field, but will be ably replaced by Conor.
“Conor is an outstanding rugby player and is held in the highest regard with both the players and coaches. As a three-time Lions tourist, he knows what will be required as captain and I am certain he will lead the squad with excellence. He will also be well supported by an experienced leadership group.
“We plan for Adam and Josh to join up with the touring party before we depart for South Africa tomorrow evening.”
The call-up for Beard will be a bitter pill to swallow for Irishman James Ryan and Scotsman Jonny Gray, who would both be widely regarded as the next two cabs of the rank in terms of second-row options for this Lions trip.
The appointment of Murray as captain is a blow to Scottish scrum-half Ali Price‘s hopes of making the Test starting XV.
Meanwhile, Exeter Chiefs quartet, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Stuart Hogg, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds will also link up with the 37-man touring party as planned in Edinburgh on Sunday 27th June.