Six personnel changes to Lions starting XV for South Africa series decider

Duhan van der Merwe and Ali Price in starting XV, Finn Russell on bench, but Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris and Rory Sutherland miss out

Could Finn Russell and Ali Price end up reunited at half-back for the Lions during Saturday's third Test? Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Could Finn Russell and Ali Price end up reunited at half-back for the Lions during Saturday's third Test? Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

DUHAN VAN DER MERWE has retained his place, Ali Price has been called back into the Lions starting XV and Finn Russell is on the bench for Saturday’s series decider against South Africa in Cape Town, but Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris and Rory Sutherland have all dropped out of the match-day 23.

In total, head coach Warren Gatland has made seven changes – six personnel and one positional – to the starting XV from last weekend’s heavy defeat to the Springboks. Alongside the recalled Price,  full-back Liam Williams and hooker Ken Owens make their first starts of the series having featured off the bench previously, while left wing Josh Adams, inside centre Bundee Aki and loose-head prop Wyn Jones all make their first appearances of the series.

Second-row Adam Beard and back-row Sam Simmonds will also feature for the first time in a Lions Test match off the bench, with Tadhg Beirne and Taulupe Faletau missing out. Interestingly, the starting back five of the scrum is unchanged.


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“The matchday 23 have an incredibly special opportunity in front of them – to seal a Lions Series victory in South Africa,” said Gatland.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than this and we’re excited by the challenge that faces us on Saturday.

“We’ve no excuses from last week, the Springboks put us under pressure in the second half and deserved the win. We have to be much better than that second half performance, and I believe we will be.”

Saturday’s clash against the reigning World Champions is the final Test match in the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series and will be shown live and exclusively on Sky Sports.

British & Irish Lions (v South Africa in the Third Test @ Cape Town Stadium, Saturday 5pm BST): L Williams; J Adams, R Henshaw, B Aki, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, A Price; W Jones, K Owens, T Furlong, M Itoje, A Jones (captain), C Lawes, T Curry, J Conan.

Substitutes: L Cowan-Dickie, M Vunipola, K Sinckler*, A Beard, S Simmonds, C Murray, F Russell, E Daly.

* subject to outcome of disciplinary hearing.


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About David Barnes 2563 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.

23 Comments

  1. With this selection the Boks may actually have the edge on fitness. Williams, Adams, Aki, Wyn Jones, Beard and Simmonds have played no rugby I’m the last three weeks.
    Finn hasn’t played in 5 weeks.
    Also if Wyn Jones hasnt fully recovered from his shoulder injury then Mako could end up playing more than half of the match, which would not be good.
    Looks like Warrenball 13, the search for mediocrity, is on the cards. Quel surprise.

  2. As the attack coach where is Townsends input in all this?
    Is putting the ball in the air really Toonie tactics?

  3. With the behaviour of the coaches, the stop-start nature of the games, the questioning of referees and the turgid style of rugby nothing has been offered that would interest any new fans.

    Having really looked forward to the Lions tour and been a huge rugby fan for 50+ years, I’ve got fed up and just want it to be done and dusted. I don’t even care who wins the series …

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  4. Sorry Mr Gatland , I do not understand this selection, it’s almost as if the Scottish contingent has taken the full blame for last week, and the defeat. The reason we have scored only 1 try against the full Boks team is Biggar and his kick chase, lie 15 metres back from the breakdown and then kick again style of game.It does not matter who the backs are if Biggar kicks the ball away all day long then who ever the backs are they will all look bad.
    I have been reading other posting sites and consensus seems to be the team will play like wonder kids if Scottish guys are removed from the side, and replaced especially by Liam Williams playing anywhere, even in the scrum. I thought last weekends backs were the best combo the Lions had, but if they never get the ball replacing them with another group will have no effect on the outcome. We needed Price/Finn to start, not end up where as Bryce correctly states it’s unlikely they will play together and will pass each other during the the last 1/4 of the game by which time the game will be gone. I will await Squidge’s analysis later in the week on the 2nd test, he will as usual reveal some great insite.

  5. I find it amusing that armchair pundits like us can acuse Gatland and his fellow world class coaches of making bad decisions with selection. They will have analysed the hell out of every game including and since Japan. They have also been on the ground at training with the players every day. I’m excited about the possibility of Russel coming on for a boom or bust cameo.

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    • Perhaps the SA coaching team has done it a little better so far, with the last second half freshest in everyone’s minds, (they are World Cup winning coaches x so no mugs either) But it is only one all and two halves each in the games so far. Really looking forward to Saturday to see if we can turn around that last second half performance.

    • Not half as amusing as Garland’s record in his last job in NZ…..losing every single game! He probably analysed that too but was too much of a dinosaur to react

  6. Yeah, some if it looks like change for change sake, and Finn is the only one that has the nerve to chuck Gatlands ‘game plan’ in the bucket and cut loose. At least we’d go out with a bang ! I’ll be very depressed with a repeat of the second test.

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      • Smith was realistically only going to get anywhere near the test 23 if at least two others were ruled out injured. The guy is promising hasn’t ever even played against a Tier 1 nation.

      • neither would tear up the game plan. They would offer a different variation on a game plan, which hopefully the head coach would avail himself of.
        Russell is being set up to fail. If he gets on the game will either be well won with 5-10mins to go, or well lost and probably too late to catch up and being sent on with the wonderful service from Murray when he eventually gets to a break down. And it’ll be Russell’s fault when he gets man and ball every time

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  7. Gatland has gone for some changes, but only half way – which means The Lions will not get the benefit and are unlikely to fare much better as a consequence. Most obviously, if you’re starting with Ali – by far the most on-form nine in the tour party – then you put Finn straight in and take advantage of a very settled and successful half back partnership. Biggar has been mince, while Russell will do his nut if he has to come on with Murray and endure both his box kicks and notoriously pedestrian service. It will completely negate his game. In the back row I am astonished to see Curry get a third start, for he has offered very little in the test matches. Watson and Beirne were the class acts in the back row during the Six Nations and nothing I have seen on tour has changed that view. Mistake, mistake, mistake. Whatever happens, I would like to see some entertaining rugby break on Saturday, even if only by accident, but I know full well that is not what I will get. The Saffers are dour but extremely effective, while Gatland has poetry in his soul. I’m very glad this will be his last game in charge of the Lions.

  8. Sorry Mr Gatland , I do not understand this selection, it’s almost as if the Scottish contingent has taken the full blame for last week, and the defeat. The reason we have scored only 1 try against the full Boks team is Biggar and his kick chase, lie 15 metres back from the breakdown and then kick again style of game.It does not matter who the backs are if Biggar kicks the ball away all day long then who ever the backs are they will all look bad.
    I have been reading other posting sites and consensus seems to be the team will play like wonder kids if Scottish guys are removed from the side, and replaced especially by Liam Williams playing anywhere, even in the scrum. I thought last weekends backs were the best combo the Lions had, but if they never get the ball replacing them with another group will have no effect on the outcome. We needed Price/Finn to start, not end up where as Bryce correctly states it’s unlikely they will play together and will pass each other during the the last 1/4 of the game by which time the game will be gone. I will await Squidge’s analysis later in the week on the 2nd test, he talks more sense than every TV pundit.

  9. Too many diplomats commenting!!!
    Forwards pumped last week, not even second best at the breakdown and no changes in back five of scrum. Pumped again me thinks.
    Biggar still at 10 to keep the ball in the sky and the red card waiting to happen, Aki, at 12. You could pick the best All Black back 3 of all time and it would make no difference.
    Another bore fest from Garland.

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  10. Hope the boks stuff they and we can put this contrived nonsense to bed for a few years.

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  11. I suppose the selection of the 23 should not surprise me. Disappoint me, but no surprise.
    It will now be down to game strategy.
    Week 1 saw a shambolic first half followed by a second half where the Lions played to their potential.
    Week 2 performance suggested almost zero leadership with the Lions playing like headless chickens.
    What will Week 3 bring us?
    The selection of the starting XV & the bench just about sums it up for me. The urgency & inventiveness of a Price-Russell partnership has been ignored & unless Biggar is injured early on, Finn will not partner Price.
    That major error by the management team says it all.

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  12. One obvious factor missing in 2nd Test especially second half, aggression and go forward but they leave Hamish Watson out, strange. Harris can feel hard done by especially as I can’t see what Aki offers over Harris who has played well and as for Williams he didn’t look any better than Hogg under the high ball.
    Are there any plus factors? The obvious one is Farrell isn’t on the bench I just hope Russell gets a chance to show what has been missing, the wingers if they get a sniff have the ability going forward and it’s good to see Price restored.
    One aspect that must be addressed with the Referee’s and TMO is the constant break in play with water bottles and the team talks from off-field staff: it has to stop, sorry, be controlled.
    What amount of game time was there in the 2nd Test? From memory the first half was nearly an Hour, surely that had to help the South Africans who showed in the first test that they were not as match fit as the Lions. The almost unanimous opinion is that the way to go is to run the Boks around, they showed in the first game that they ran out of puff, and that and an attempt to get them on the back foot, will give Lions a chance. Front foot-ball, and kicking accuracy seems to be the Boks Plan A and Plan B is repeat Plan A.

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  13. I hope the lad does well but Duhan lucky to retain his place. No changes in back 5 makes no sense as they were comprehensively beaten at the breakdown. Conan has been non-existent this tour. Harris unlucky to miss out. Sadly, Hogg no surprises (is he carrying an injury to have played so poorly last week). And Owens starting at Hooker??? Really hope they can pull it off.

  14. Excited to Finn and hope he gets lots of game time. Quite right that Ali Price starts. Zander may yet come into the squad.Dan Biggar needs to up his game massively. Feel sorry for Taidgh Beirne and Hamish Watson but it’s not a bad selection if they try to play some rugby.

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