Seven Scots in Lions squad to play Stormers

Stuart Hogg returns from two-week absence to take place in Saturday's starting 15, with Alun Wyn Jones and Marcus Smith also involved

Stuart Hogg
Stuart Hogg returns at full-back for the Lions on Saturday. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE team selected by the Lions to play on the last Saturday before the first Test is usually a good indication of who has been earmarked to take part in the big game itself, and if that is the case it is promising news for the tourists’ Scottish contingent.

Seven of the eight Scots on the trip are in the 23 to face the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday, with five of them starting. Injured Finn Russell is the only Scottish absentee.

Stuart Hogg returns from a two-week lay-off to lead the side from full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe on the wing, Ali Price at scrum-half, Rory Sutherland at loose-head prop and Hamish Watson at open-side flanker. Tight-head prop Zander Fagerson and centre Chris Harris are on the bench.


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Hogg missed out on the two games against the Sharks last week as well as last night’s match against South Africa ‘A’ after being identified as a close contact of a member of the Lions management who tested positive for Covid. The Scotland captain had to stay in Johannesburg when the squad travelled to Cape Town at the weekend, but has now been reunited with his team-mates.

“For me, the key was just to get into a good routine,” he said earlier today when asked how he had coped with isolation. “It’s a long, old time to be hidden away, so getting my routine sorted and making sure I was being as productive as I possibly could seemed to pass the time a lot quicker.

“It was challenging at times but we had a little mini-isolation group and we had a good crack along the way and kept each other going. But I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, it was a horrendous few days but I’m delighted to be back.

“It became a little bit easier once the boys and everyone in the touring party left [Johannesburg]. I got a little bit of time to spend in the gym and managed to sanitise down about a million times while I was in there.

“So I got the chance to do everything I possibly could. I was carrying a little knock after a training session, but I’m all good now and excited to get going again.”

Alun Wyn Jones’ remarkable comeback after dislocating his shoulder just three weeks ago continues with the Welsh talisman named on the bench, while Marcus Smith gets his first outing since being called up last Sunday at stand-off.

The return of Robbie Henshaw at inside centre is also a boost to the Lions selection panel’s options for next weekend.

“It’s an important game as it’s the final chance for the coaching group to see the players perform prior to the start of the Test Series,” said Gatland.

“For the matchday 23 it’s their last opportunity to stake a claim for a Test place, so I expect to see a highly motivated group of players.

“It is particularly pleasing to be able to name Stuart Hogg in the squad. He’s not had much luck on Lions Tours to date, so it’ll be great to see him cross the whitewash again with the captain’s armband.

“I’m also delighted that Marcus will get his first start in a Lions jersey. I’ve been really impressed with his attitude since coming into camp this week; he’s been like a sponge for information.”

“Obviously it’s a tight turnaround from Wednesday’s game but we’re in pretty good shape. The South Africa ‘A’ game was a physical encounter – we always knew it would be – but we’ve come out of it pretty much intact and ready to go again. Liam Williams will begin his return to play protocol following his HIA.

“We learnt a lot from Wednesday’s game and I hope the defeat will serve us well. There’re still some areas of the game we need to tighten up on, particularly reducing our turnover rate.

“Time and again on this Tour we’ve had to adapt in the face of the challenges created by COVID-19. I couldn’t be prouder of the staff and the players for the role each of them has played to get us to this point on the Tour.”

 

British & Irish Lions (v the Stormers at the Cape Town Stadium, Saturday 5pm BST): S Hogg ©; J Adams, E Daly, R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; M Smith, A Price; R Sutherland, L Cowan-Dickie, T Furlong, A Beard, J Hill, T Beirne, H Watson, J Conan. Substitutes: J George, M Vunipola, Z Fagerson, A Jones, S Simmonds, G  Davies, C Harris, L Rees-Zammit.

DHL Stormers: S Petersen; S Senatla, R Pretorius, D du Plessis, E van der Merwe; T Swiel, G Masimla; L Lyons, J Kotze, N Fouche, E van Rhyn (captain), J Schickerling, N Xaba, J du Toit, E Roos. Substitutes from: A Venter, K Blose, S Sandi, J Basson, M Theunissen, T Bursey, A van Reenen, J de Jongh, L Mazibuko, N Otto, L Zas, C Smit.


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About Stuart Bathgate 980 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

10 Comments

  1. In my opinion, Ali Price has been consistent, excellent, with few mistakes made, so probably will be ignored for his position in the important games.

  2. Smith is starting as Russell and Biggar are injured and Farrell can’t really be expected to play another game especially if he is last FH standing, though his form is honking.

    Think it was a poor call to select Smith ahead of any number of 10s with test experience. Maybe he’ll be amazing if he appears in the tests, or more likely he’ll really struggle in a novel environment, under a lot of pressure, stepping up to a higher level against the world champs and without even the luxury of enjoying the full Lions camps. I hope this is the only appearance he gets, as this is a nice free-hit. If Lions are relying on Smith to come on and steady the ship in a test, or even start a test, we’ll be goosed. He’ll never have been exposed to a game like SA will bring and it’s unrealistic to expect him to perform well.

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    • I totally disagree. If your good enough, your old enough and Smith is certainly good enough. He seems to be a very confident lad and I think he’ll thrive under the pressure as he did in the premiership final. I expect the other players will respect his qualities and follow his instructions.

  3. Now that’s what I call an exciting back line. Hoggy, Adams, VDM in the back three with young Smith hopefully playing the Finn role. In the forwards it’s all to play for to get into the test 23 probably with the exception of Jonny Hill. It would be good if they can get some go forward ball for Ali Price to play with. Also interesting to see how Robbie Henshaw goes as the centres have been a bit underwhelming to be honest.
    As someone who dislocated his shoulders on occasion during his non illustrious rugby career I will be particularly interested to see how AWJ goes when he gets on for his cameo. Will his injury stand up and mentally will he be protecting his shoulder as he goes into contact.
    Overall really excited by the team selection. I can see the lions wanting to go through the phases up front in a structured manner then play wide and fast out back.
    Hopefully the Scots shine and make it hard even for Gatland to ignore them.

  4. Wow he is going with Marcus Smith, that might be interesting with Price, to guys playing at the top of their game. Think Smith cannot do worse than Farrell last night. Surprised to see Henshaw hope he is fit. Front row looks great and the back row also, I think these might be the test line up’s. All in all nice looking side think I would have preferred this side against the Boks A last night.

  5. Great to see Hoggy back for this and hope he can do what he does best (despite the lengthy self-isolation) and force his way into the test team. A lot of this team looks to me like close to a starting 15 for next weekend, save for a few positions.
    Having dragged Marcus Smith all the way there, I guess he had to be given a start (and this is the last chance) but I’d be surprised to see him start a test (unless Biggar gets injured, Finn doesn’t recover, and Farrell’s patchy performance so far rules him out at 10). I’m still a bit mystified why Hastings didn’t get the call up for this back up role though. Without wishing to get nationalist about this, when Tipuric and AWJ got injured, Gatland went directly to Welsh replacements. But when Finn was injured the ready-made (experienced international) Scot was ignored for a total rookie at this level…
    Great chance for Ali Price to force his way into the starting 15 too as he’s looking sharp and the other two 9’s haven’t exactly been pulling up trees in the last few games.
    Going to be a great match.

    • Could Covid have played a role in the selection of Smith over Hastings? Presumably Marcus Smith would of been in a tight bubble with England.

      • no one who has been watching Smith over the last year will be surprised to see him getting the call up. His form has been quite outstanding

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  6. Great to see. Its now a case of them making it difficult for Gatland to ignore them. All in their hands provided they stay injury free.

  7. Basically all of them that are fit. I’m going to enjoy watching this one. What a relief that Hoggie is back and fighting fit.

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