Chris Harris starts but Hamish Watson drops out of squad for Lions’ second Test

Ali Price and Rory Sutherland drop to the bench for Cape Town clash

Chris Harris will start at outside centre for the Lions in Saturday's second Test against Soth Africa. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Chris Harris will start at outside centre for the Lions in Saturday's second Test against Soth Africa. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

CHRIS HARRIS has been added to the Lions starting XV for Saturday’s second Test against South Africa in Cape Town, but it is less positive news for fellow Scots Ali Price and Rory Sutherland who drop to the bench, and for Hamish Watson who is out of the match-day squad altogether.

Conor Murray now starts at scrum-half and Mako Vunipola is at loose-head prop, with the rest of the starting side being kept the same as the one which initially took the field in last weekend’s pulsating 22-17 victory for the tourists over the world champions.

Harris’s selection means that Elliot Daly drops to the bench meaning Liam Williams misses out on the match-day 23. Taulupe Faletau is added to the replacements list in place of Watson and will win his fifth Test cap when he enters the fray.


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Dan Biggar will play stand-off subject to completing the return-to-play protocol and assessment by an independent concussion. He will not be able to train until Thursday.

“As always, selection was incredibly tough,” said head coach Warren Gatland. “However, we’ve made the changes we think are the right calls for the weekend’s game.

“It’ll be another tight contest. We know the Springboks will be hurting and they’ll throw everything at us on Saturday, but I think there’s plenty more to come from us too. We feel we can go up another level from where we were in the first Test and I would expect us to improve.

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“It’s the biggest game on the Tour and we have to embrace the expectation that comes with it. As players and coaches, these are the games you want to be involved in. We’re relishing the opportunity to face the Springboks again on Saturday and potentially seal a Series win.”

The Lions have lost just two Series after winning the first Test, against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001.

British & Irish Lions (v South Africa in the second Test @ Cape Town Stadium, Saturday 5pm BST):  S Hogg; A Watson, C Harris, R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, C Murray; M Vunipola, L Cowan-Dickie, T Furlong, M Itoje, A Jones (captain),  C Lawes, T Curry, J Conan. Substitutes: K Owens, R Sutherland, K Sinckler, T Beirne, T Faletau, A Price, O Farrell, E Daly.


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About David Barnes 2993 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

18 Comments

  1. Wrong backrow for me. Completely outplayed at the breakdown in the first half in both the A game and the first test. Curry dominated by Du Toit in both games and Lawes is not an exponent in that area. Fully expecting SA to be well in the lead at half time and not give it up in this game. Gatlands conservatism and defence minded attitude will come undone. Makes for an exciting final match though. One final thought how Farrell is in the 23 is beyond comprehension as he was absolutely brutal on saturday and is a disaster waiting to happen he is so slow.

  2. I’ll say this for Gatland: when it comes to rugby ideas, he’s a monogamist.

    Generally it works, but 80 minutes of unlubricated missionary exertion leaves me superficially satisfied, but dead inside.

    Well done to Harris though. Top lad.

    • Win this one and then play Marcus Smith in the final Test and let’s have some entertainment!

  3. Murray over Price is my only real grumble.

    Vunipola was good off the bench.

    Daly was pretty poor but offers good cover from the bench.

    Watson had no positive impact off the bench and was lucky not to be yellow carded. Made no metres with his two carries either. He did nothing to take the jersey. Curry gave away a few penalties but a couple were very borderline.

    If Biggar fails any stage of the assessments I don’t think it is a guarantee Russell benches. Since June 18th he has played about 90min of rugby and missed 3 weeks of training. Smith is arguably the most inform player in the position and is flying at the moment.

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  4. Harsh on Price, I’m thinking Gatland is striking a balance with the starters and finishers. Price and his game management will be crucial in the closing stages, Sutherland will be champing at the bit once he gets on so I wouldn’t be too downhearted. Both will get ample game time.

    Delighted for Harris, it’s the obvious choice given how Daly played at 13 at the weekend

  5. Mako only looked good because Sutherland had taken the guts out of both of the SS tight heads, hate to say it but I think that playing Mako from the start will only prove how poor he is in his day job. Price and Watson both unlucky.

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  6. Hamish is on the naughty step for the potential yellow card, but does that equate to the 6 points Curry coughed up in the first quarter, well it obviously does for Gatland it seems because that apart I can’t see Hamish has put a foot wrong.
    As regards Murray versus Price and what would seem to be a ‘shut down’ type of plan for the second test, but that could come home to bite because if the 1st Test showed anything it was that the SA’s are short of fitness and game time and at that level of the game you don’t get that back in a week, which brings me to my second thought about Vunipola.
    Ok he came on with about 20 minutes to go and true the scrum was steady but that was about all, also Sutherland and Furlong had a good 20 minutes at them, and without being too biased that has to be a contributing factor.
    I don’t think Vunipla looked the part in the 6 Nations and unless the coaching team have done an Alun Wyn Jones on Vunipola in ‘fitness’ terms I am not convinced he will last out the first half if he has to put himself about.
    I think the fact he does start consolidates my thoughts that they intend to up the tempo from the bench, but if you don’t run the Boks around in the first place: I think you get my concern, its trying to close the stable door when the horse has bolted.
    Then my concern about Farrell coming on instead of Biggar, they have as yet to be allayed and obviously without Russell on he bench it is obvious that Gatland doesn’t want to expose Smith, but Marcus Smith is young, confident and skilled enough to do the business, and you could say he’s not that much different from Finn a couple of years back.
    I hope Harris takes his chance and Price and Sutherland put in a great shift off the bench and Gatland’s plan makes it 0 – 2.

  7. Beaten in the first half of last two games, Gatland doubles down on rope-a-dope tactics hoping that SAs lack of game time sees them tire again in the second half. Hearing the commentators/pundits get excited about “test match intensity” whilst neither side creates anything is a bore.

  8. I tend to agree with those who say this is a bit of a defensive looking side. Surprised Price is on the bench, maybe too many Scots in the starting side. The problem is there was only one real line break last weekend, which Henshaw messed up, by not passing to the 3 other guys including Price running in to space around him. I think the price you pay with Bigger, is a more structured game, with him way behind the line. I don’t think Bigger or Farrell are Townsend’s type of players, and judging by the lack of attacking sparkle last weekend they are not really mine either. If Bigger does not pass fit and Finn is not available , put young Smith in for the last 20, with Farrell at 10 to start. If the Bok’s win next weekend then Price and Finn can ride to the rescue the following game and win the series.

  9. The lions were always going to play Warrenball. Can’t say I’m surprised by any of these selections, they’re all typical Gatland choices. Carwyn James will be spinning in his grave but that’s the way the game is now. Matches like last week and probably this weekend too are the reason this amateur concept should be binned.

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  10. Can’t remember if it was the SA try or a disallowed one, but there was a loose Boks pass and our backs went ball-chasing leaving a colossal dog-leg. Harris should stop things like that happening and has been great going forward this tour too. Price and Mish both unlucky. For Watson it might simply be a case that they’re more likely to replace 8 than 7 during the game.

    Itoje was immense last game. That final defensive set was an absolute joy to watch. Be great if we can go 2-0 then get the flair players in for the final game, but I’m sure the Boks will have very different ideas!

  11. Looks like containment is the aim. Simplify the game, to kick, chase harass and SA errors will come. It is a game where SA have to do the chasing. Disappointed for Price and Sutherland, We did seem to lack a bit of control in the first half which cost points and so looking to play steady is not the worst idea. Given the expected SA backlash will involve a lot of big hits/softeners, it may be a good day not to be at the coal face from the start.
    Fingers crossed the guys get on and make a big impact when they do. Hamish must be gutted, this perceived size thing must be really annoying him by now. Hope he gets a run in the third test and shows how good he really is.
    See SA are starting Malherbe and Kitsoff this time.

  12. The team selection suggests a more defensive game plan, built on containment. Cannot understand why Hamish has been dropped from the bench. Top tackler on tour, so all I can say is don’t come crying to me – especially as Curry was far from convincing last trip out. Harris was always going to get a start at some stage – and he certainly offers a lot more defensive stability in midfield than Daly. Ali should consider himself extremely unlucky, even if Murray had an improved performance as sub. Face-saving politics or yet another sign that Gatland is going to play less ambitious rugby to protect his 1-0 lead? I also want to see more from Hogg – that siege gun kick to the Saffer five metre line was a belter and I suspect Gatland will be looking for much more of that kind of thing from him. Do not expect the Lions to play the beautiful game, or you’ll be waiting a long time.

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    • Agree. Containment, containment, containment – let SA chase the game. Seems the sensible, if conservative call.
      SA starting Kitsoff and Malherbe and added Weise at 8. It’ll be a tough time at the coal face.
      Hope the subs make a good impact when they get the chance.

  13. I don’t agree with all the calls but hope Hatland has got them right and hope all the Scottish boys in particular contribute to a famous victory.

    If Biggar fails his RTP and/or fitness test Finn will be on the bench, along with Price and Daly. Quite the cavalry if things haven’t gone to plan. Would love it if Finn and Ali saved the day!

  14. A bore-fest last Saturday will be followed by an even bigger one this Saturday. It will be like a bad junior football game. The Ball will spend all its time in the sky. The only tempo will be in players looking to the heavens.
    The media types, especially they Sky “experts” won’t be happy until all the Scots are dropped.
    If the Lions have just become about winning the games by outboring the Boks, with zero thought for entertaining rugby, then it’s as well played in front of nobody. The TV audience won’t be long in following suit.

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  15. A little harsh on Price would have liked to have seen Finn on the bench. Hamish silly tackle obviously cost him his place. With Harris picked and Conor Murray not a lot expected in the attack. Looks like Gatland wants to out muscle the Boks.

  16. Leaving Curry in place is a mistake.
    Taking Watson out of the match squad compounds it.
    Otherwise no real arguments; Murray for Price….I’d watch for the Boks trying to take out Snowflake’s ‘standing leg’
    Harris adds required backbone to defence coz the Boks will come out blazing.
    Mako & Sutherland only coz Wyn Davis still not up to it & I presume Finn getting fit for the (maybe) dead rubber.

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