Lions v Japan: four Scots in starting XV for tour opener

Rory Sutherland, Zander Fagerson, Hamish Watson and Duhan van der Merwe all in starting XV, while Ali Price is on bench

Edinburgh's three Lions - Hamish Watson, Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland - will all start Saturday's match at Murrayfield. Image: © Craig Watson -
Edinburgh's three Lions - Hamish Watson, Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland - will all start Saturday's match at Murrayfield. Image: © Craig Watson -

WARREN GATLAND has named four Scottish players in his starting Lions XV, and named another on the bench, ahead of Saturday’s match against Japan at Murrayfield.

Rory Sutherland will play his first match since dislocating his shoulder at the end of March at loose-head prop, with countryman Zander Fagerson at tight-head. Hamish Watson is at open-side flanker and Duhan van der Merwe has been named on the left wing. Meanwhile, Ali Price is replacement scrum-half.

It will be the first time the Lions have played on Scottish soil and the squad will fly out to begin their eight match (three Test) tour of South Africa the following morning.

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“We’re anticipating a tough game against Japan – a side that like to play at a high-tempo and shift the ball,” said head coach Gatland.

“We saw throughout the World Cup they have attacking threats across the park and a solid defence and set piece.

“I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made during our training camp in Jersey so far, but we’ve a long way to go. You can see that the squad are starting to get to grips with our game strategies, but, as always with a Lions Tour, this takes time to bed in.

“We’re in a good place though and I can tell there’s a lot more to come from this group.

“Everyone in the squad will get a start before the start of the Test Series, so each member of the squad can put their hand up for Test selection.

“We are absolutely delighted to be playing in front of sixteen thousand supporters in Edinburgh. I’m sure the crowd will give the players an enormous lift before we depart for South Africa on Sunday.”


British & Irish Lions (v Japan at Murrayfield, Saturday 3pm): L Williams; J Adams, R Henshaw, B Aki, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, C Murray; R Sutherland, K Owens, Z Fagerson, I Henderson, AW Jones, T Beirne, H Watson, J Conan.

Replacements: J George, W Jones, T Furlong, C Lawes, T Faletau, A Price, O Farrell, A Watson.

  • The Lions’ eight-game Tour to South Africa kicks off on Saturday 3 July when they play the Emirates Lionsat Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. Three weeks later, Cape Town Stadium will host the opening Test match of the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series – the first Lions Test in the Mother City since 1997. The British and Irish tourists then return to Gauteng and play the second and third Tests at FNB Stadiumin Johannesburgon Saturday 31 July and 8 August respectively.

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About David Barnes 3192 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. Interesting mix. Sutherland is probably the best loose-head scrummager in the touring party and he will welcome the opportunity to cement that claim. By contrast, I imagine that the unstoppable flying machine Duhan will have a mountain to climb to dislodge the likes of Watson and Rees-Zammit from the test side – and there will be questions in the coaches’ minds regarding his defensive game that he needs to answer. For me the two most interesting of the four Scots lads starting on Saturday are Oor Hamish and Big Zander. The English witter on endlessly about the brilliance of Tom Curry, but we know who quite rightly won Player of the Tournament in the Six Nations. And if we are going to war, then the Scots lad is the one I would prefer standing next to me every time. Fagerson will be in no mood to prove the selectors wrong in picking him ahead of the over-emotional Kyle Sinckler, whose penalty count can be a liability. For me Ali Price was the best-performing Lions-qualified scrum half of the Six Nations and it annoys me how little recognition this was given in some quarters. He has earned his place and will grab his opportunity with both hands. A Lions team with a heavy Scots accent – it’s been a long time coming and I can hardly wait.

    • I don’t think LRZ is inked in really, probably Watson any Williams are presumptive starting wingers. DVDM has issues in positioning and under high ball but in 6N he missed 3 tackles in 400minutes compared to LRZ 9.

      I’m a big fan of Fagerson but he was penalised far more frequently than Sinkler in the 6N. His work rate in attack and defence is epic though and can take his chance in SA.

      Totally agree on Price. In a weak position for the Lions he could be a dark horse for a test starter.

    • To be brutally fair, Sinkler doesn’t really give away many pens and the ones he does tend to be in the loose. Fagerson is terrible for getting involved on nonsensical handbags and getting carded and even worse for giving away pens because he refuses to put his feet and knees in the right place when scrummaging. Much as I want Scottish players to be recognised fairly it was an extraordinary decision to pick fagerson over Sinkler. As for Price he’s not even the second best scrum half at his club. He kicks too often too aimlessly, leaves the ball in the ruck and maul far too long allowing defences to reset or simply take the ball off him and his pass is shocking for a pro player let alone a 9. Plenty of Scottish Welsh n Irish 9s have a right to be miffed about him being in. The ‘he manages the game well’ trope might carry some weight if we had ever achieved anything significant with him in our side but frankly we haven’t.

      • Price had the second highest number of assists in the Six Nations, behind only Dupont. I particularly remember that dink over the Welsh defence to put Darcy in, as well as that lung-bursting run down the length of the pitch against Italy to hand Duhan an easy score. I think you prove my point – much of What he does goes under the RADAR.

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