Wyn Jones, Ken Owens and Liam Williams have been named in the British & Irish Lions match-day 23 to take on the Springboks in the opening Test of the series in Cape Town on Saturday (5pm UK time).
Wyn has been rewarded for an impressive tour with the No. 1 jersey, while Ken and Liam, who has recovered from a shoulder injury, have been named among the replacements.
Tour captain Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales) will skipper the side having recovered from a dislocated shoulder sustained in the tourists 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield Stadium just 24 days ago.
In doing so, the Welsh lock will win his tenth-successive Test cap for the Lions in Cape Town, moving him into an illustrious list of Lions legends to have made 10 Test appearances or more, including Gareth Edwards (10), Graham Price (12), Mike Gibson (12) Dickie Jeeps (13) and Willie-John McBride (17). Jones is the first however to play 10 Tests for the famous touring side in the professional era.
“In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in,” said head coach Warren Gatland.
“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.”
The much-anticipated clash against the reigning World Champions is the first of three Tests matches in the Castle Lager Lions Series to be shown live and exclusively on Sky Sports
SOUTH AFRICA v THE BRITISH & IRISH LIONS
15 Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland); 14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England), 13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England), 12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland); 10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), 9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland); 1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), 5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales), 6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England), 7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), 8.Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland).
Replacements: 16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), 17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), 18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England), 19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland), 20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland), 21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland), 22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England), 23. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales).