Lions team CONFIRMED: three Scots start first Test, two more on bench

Alun Wyn Jones will captain the Lions in their first Test against South Africa on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson -
Alun Wyn Jones will captain the Lions in their first Test against South Africa on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson -

STUART Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe and Ali Price have all earned starting places in the British & Irish Lions team for Saturday’s first Test against the Springboks, while Rory Sutherland and Hamish Watson are on the bench.

Full-back Hogg, winger Van der Merwe and scrum-half Price will become the first Scots to start a Lions Test in 20 years, the last having been loosehead prop Tom Smith on the 2001 tour to Australia. The last time three Scots started together was four years before that, when Smith was joined by Alan Tait and current Lions assistant coach Gregor Townsend in the first two Tests – both of which were won – against South Africa.

With Finn Russell unavailable because of an achilles injury, only two Scots who were available for selection – Zander Fagerson and Chris Harris – have been omitted from Warren Gatland’s 23.

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Officially announced this morning, the team for the match in Cape Town is identical to the one published by The Times yesterday, shortly after the players themselves were told. However, there is one difference on the bench, with Liam Williams coming in as a third backs replacement. The Welsh back-three player is chosen instead of Irish lock Iain Henderson in a five-three split rather than the six-two suggested by the newspaper.

Alun Wyn Jones will complete a remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder by captaining the side, having only returned to the squad in South Africa last week. The Welshman is alongside England’s Maro Itoje at lock in a pack which in total comprises four two Irish players, four Englishmen and two from Wales. Scotland have the biggest representation behind the scrum, while England have two players and Ireland and Wales have one each.

“In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in,” head coach Gatland said. “We couldn’t have asked for more from the players so far; they’ve all put their hands up and made picking a starting XV incredibly difficult. In truth, we would have been happy with any number of different combinations across the 23, however, we’re very pleased with the side we’ve settled on.

“We know what we’re coming up against on Saturday. It’s going to be an arm wrestle, there’s no doubt about it. We’ll need to front up physically and be ready to go from the first whistle. When we played SA ‘A’ last week we probably took a bit too long to get into the game, something we can’t afford to do that again this weekend.

“We need to make sure we play in the right areas of the field, not give them easy territory and take our chances when they come. While the stands will be empty in Cape Town Stadium, we know Lions fans from across the home nations will be cheering us on back home. We’ll do our best to get the win.”

British & Irish Lions (v South Africa at the Cape Town Stadium, Saturday 5pm BST):  S Hogg; A Watson, E Daly, R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, A Price; W Jones, 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, H Watson, C Murray, O Farrell, L Williams.

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About David Barnes 3908 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.


  1. The first and last time i followed the Lions was in 1997 (brilliant, thanks to my pal half french/irish-english to discover the Lions).
    As a french married to a glaswegian, i’ve been biased (in a good way i hope) and so annoyed about the Lions selection after 97, and no chance to follow on tv.
    About the selection,
    Daly’s defence looked a bit dubious in the last 6 Nations.
    I hope to see a bit of flair, not often in tight games with a lot of pressure.
    Fingers crossed for a good Finn rehab though.

  2. Thrilled for Hogg. A Test at last. 5 out of the 23 is a testament to Gregor’s coaching (and Tandy). Can’t wait. Hope Finn’s injury clears up & he gets a chance later in the series. Farrell only there because of Finn’s achilles

  3. Delighted with 5 in the squad, its shit for Harris that he didn’t make it in. I’m sure he’ll get a test chance at some stage as I’m not convinced of Dalys attributes at 13.

    Price well and truly deserves his place, he was the in form 9 in the 6N from the home nations and he’s carried that form into the tour.

    Good luck to them all and roll on Saturday!

  4. We’re finally back at the top table, I love the lions but it’s special viewing when we have a Scots contingent involved. Well done to the guys, do us proud. To those not involved, you’ll get your chance as boks lions matches are notoriously attritional. Bring it on.

  5. What a pleasant outcome.

    Need to see them put in a shift and win now.

    The first two Tests are likely to be absolutely brutal so those on the bench (plus Harris and Zander) can yet make a big contribution.

    Winning a series will be the biggest achievement of Townsend and Tandy’s career so let’s hope for their development (and for Scotland also kicking on) they can make it happen.

  6. I did suspect that Hoggy might not make it so good news here. Obviously very Scottish biased comments here but to be fair with Curry/Watson you cant separate them – both great players. I am surprised Beirne doesnt start as he’s a great player and i suspect AWJ will struggle in this test when we have several other good locks. Also expected Falatau to start at 8. Great for Price who a few years ago wasn’t always flavour of the month with our own folks. It does show you can really progress up the rankings on a Lions tour if you impress. Farrell and Daly – I’m surprised to see in the squad.

  7. Looks like a team built to play a wider game than SA, yet still big enough to stand up to the power barrage. Second half replacements shaped to increase the pace, while SA seek to maintain power at the expense of speed. You can see why the unused front row candidates are to be used in future tests ‘in emergency only’. The SA replacement front row looks a mighty unit, but the Lions could fancy the scrum as a first half weapon. As backs can stay on longer, unless injured, the replacements look to be there for injuries and to close a game down rather than chase the game..
    Kicking, to move SA around, and chase will need to be spot on with back row out wide supporting the wings.
    Good luck to the team, hoping we get an exciting series.

  8. Whilst I’d certainly rather have Biggar than Farrell, I’d much rather have a better choice for 10. I’d have started Watson at 7 too, but Curry’s not a weakness, so that’ll have to do. It is good to see Scotland so well represented.
    It’ll be interesting to see if this team can offer more dynamism than the one that played against South Africa A, as that was a flat performance and the same again will not win a test match.

  9. Brilliant news.

    Given the criticism Ali Price has had for the last couple of years, he’s really stepped up in the Lions. Delighted that he’s got a startling place as he’s played really well.

    Should be an interesting game on Saturday

  10. Well my trepidation was unfounded. I think the selection indicates the suspected arm wrestle in the first 40+ minutes and hopefully then bring on the bench that looks fast mobile and able. Having been a detractor of Harris in the past he is surely going to get a shout in a later 23, his attacking skills have come on in leaps and bounds and I think Daly is lucky to get the nod in front of him. Adams: well in the Stormers game his mind seemed to be back home, for obvious reasons but not making the first fixture doesn’t rule out any of the 50-50 calls not getting the call if any injuries or ‘nightmare’ performances in the first Test.
    As regards replacements for the Backs, it looks a bit safety first with the only pace to come on being Williams I’m no fan of Farrell’s and Murray realistically is only there for covering Price but I’ll be happy if both of them prove me wrong if the get off the bench, if you get my drift.

  11. A great day for Scottish rugby, we could have five test players by the end of the game. I’ve no doubt Gregor has had an influence. So pleased for those starting, especially Hoggy, he is a great player and turning into a great leader and ambassador for us.
    Our game is not perfect up here but credit must go where due. All you doubters of Gregor, our system of bringing through players ( I have said repeatedly that we have more talent playing international rugby in my lifetime ), even an SA project player making it to the pinnacle of his career thanks to Scotland and its coaches.
    Now let’s enjoy this moment, leave Pro rugby and Super 6 alone and get our club game back in order, producing a game that young adults want, a club house full of fun and most important let’s do everything possible to get more bad players back playing. A very happy ?

  12. Cannot for the life of me see how Sutherland and Hamish aren’t starting….and really can’t see how Daly is and even more astounding is Murray and Farrell making bench. Some odd selections in there along with some that seem like common sense. Josh Adams can feel aggrieved too for me. Not sure it feels like a team that will terrify SA but we will see on Sat.

    • Remember that the Boks announced their team first so maybe Gatland is holding Sutherland back for when Malherbe comes on. A compliment to Sutherland’s scrummaging.

  13. At long, long last the Scots are back and the Lions truly represent all four nations on the badge. Congrats to Duhan – he has taken pelters from people who don’t really know much about rugby and buy into lazy stereotypes. Hogg was always the man for me, while Ali Price has been outstanding all tour. Murray by contrast has been utter garbage and must count himself lucky even to be on the bench. Likewise Farrell, who is given one chance after another. When exactly will he ‘come good’, given this is the argument always put forward to excuse his poor performances?’ I would have chanced Smith on the bench and let’s just see how the English pecking order changes going into next season. Fully confident Sutherland will start next time round, while surely Finn has a brilliant chance on his return to hook up with Ali. The two know each other inside out and are a fantastic unit. Finally, I want to see plenty of Hamish, who is still the best as far as I’m concerned. Go Lions!

  14. Make no bones about it, this is momentous for Scottish rugby. to go from 0 test players last tour to 5 in the match day squad is quite fantastic and shows all us grumpy buggers that things are indeed going in the right direction

    that being said i will be supporting The Lions as a lions fan and nationality of players doesnt strictly come into it, but gosh gents lets enjoy this.

    Lets go suzz, hoggy, ali, duhi and mish we are all behind you and the lions!!


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