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British and Irish Lions: Eight debutants to face Japan

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Published in Rugby
Tuesday, 22 June 2021 03:17

Alun Wyn Jones leads a British and Irish Lions side including eight debutants against Japan on Saturday.

Four Scots make the starting XV, with props Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson alongside flanker Hamish Watson and wing Duhan van der Merwe.

There will be 16,500 fans at Murrayfield for the first-ever meeting between the Lions and Japan.

"The crowd will give the players an enormous lift," said Lions head coach Warren Gatland.

"We're anticipating a tough game against Japan - a side that like to play at a high-tempo and shift the ball.

"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."

British and Irish Lions: Williams; Adams, Henshaw, Aki, Van der Merwe; Biggar, Murray; Sutherland, Owens, Fagerson, Henderson, AW Jones (c), Beirne, H Watson, Conan

Replacements: George, W Jones, Furlong, Lawes, Faletau, Price, Farrell, A Watson.

Elsewhere in the forwards, the Irish pair of Tadgh Beirne and Jack Conan make their Lions debuts as they start in the back row, with Jones and 2017 tourist Iain Henderson in the second row.

Conor Murray, twice a Lions tourist, starts at scrum-half alongside Dan Biggar, while Bundee Aki will wear the jersey for the first time as he partners compatriot Robbie Henshaw in the midfield.

Van der Merwe is joined by first-time Lion Josh Adams and 2017 hero Liam Williams in the back three.

The Saracens pair of hooker Jamie George and fly-half Owen Farrell have both been drafted on to the bench after helping guide the club back to the Premiership.

The four Lions from the Exeter Chiefs - Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill, Sam Simmonds and Stuart Hogg - are all unavailable as they will be playing in the Premiership final - while the Saracens contingent, along with Racing 92's Finn Russell, Sale's Tom Curry and Bristol's Kyle Sinckler, were all late arrivals to the Jersey training camp after finishing their club commitments.

"We're in a good place though and I can tell there's a lot more to come from this group," added Gatland.

"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."

Meanwhile it is still unclear if the fixture will be granted full Test match status.

All 'new' players will receive a cap and player number for the match, but the Lions board is still discussing whether players will get an international cap - and that will be subject to further consultation.

The Lions' eight-game Tour to South Africa kicks off on Saturday 3 July in Johannesburg - with their opponents also called the Lions - and the Test series starts in Cape Town three weeks later.

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