Chris Harris says the British and Irish Lions are "looking sharp" as they head into the first match of their South Africa tour.

The tourists face South Africa's own Lions, the Johannesburg-based team, on Saturday at Ellis Park.

Warren Gatland's team have a proud record to uphold, with the British and Irish Lions having won their first game after arriving in South Africa on each of their last six tours there.

Those victories have come by an average margin of 23 points –with their last such defeat a 9-6 setback in 1955 against Western Transvaal.

Scotland back Harris is set to make his debut for the visitors tomorrow as a much-changed team attempt to build on last weekend's win over Japan at Murrayfield.

The British and Irish Lions have never played the Lions previously but have taken on the affiliated Golden Lions, Johannesburg’s provincial side, and won each of their last four such games, most recently dishing out a 74-10 thrashing in 2009.

Only once have the travelling Lions won more heavily in South Africa, when dishing out a 97-0 thrashing to South Western Districts in 1974.

"It's an absolute honour to be puling on the jersey for the first time," Harris said on Friday. "I'm absolutely buzzing.

"It's pretty surreal to go from playing at university and working my way up through Newcastle and then representing Scotland, and this is just amazing to be able to pull on that jersey.

"I'm looking forward to it and it's a challenge I'm willing to relish. We got off to a really good start against Japan, but we're here to hit the ground running here in South Africa with another win.

"It's a new team, new combinations, but we've had a good week or two training together and we're looking sharp."

 

Scotland skipper Stuart Hogg will captain Gatland's team and was described as "a brilliant leader" by Harris.

"But he's also got plenty of brilliant leaders alongside him to help him along the way," said Harris, who will partner England skipper Owen Farrell in the midfield. "I think it will be a good game for him to start his captaincy as a Lions player."

Alun Wyn Jones was due to captain the Lions but was unable to make the tour after dislocating his shoulder against Japan.

His fellow Welshman and near-namesake Wyn Jones believes the British and Irish Lions being largely isolated in a team hotel while in South Africa need not be a hindrance.

"You've got to make it to your advantage," Jones said. "We're a close team now and I think the bubble's brought us closer. We spend a lot of time together and that can only be an advantage. We're having a good time together despite not being able to leave the hotel."


RUSSELL OUT TO MAKE AN IMPACT

The battle for the starting Test fly-half role is on, with Finn Russell the latest to get the chance to persuade Gatland he should play from the off in the first Test on July 24 in Cape Town.

Dan Biggar seized his chance last time out, being named man of the match against Japan, and Farrell is a contender for the role too, but Russell is certainly in with a strong shout, and these tour matches are opportunities to deliver persuasive performances.

It should help Russell to have Scotland team-mate Ali Price at scrum-half, and Hogg as skipper.

EARLY CHANCE TO PROVE PACK'S STRENGTH

The visiting Lions can expect a robust welcome to South Africa, and Gatland will look for his team as a whole, not least the forwards, to show they are up for the battle ahead.

Prop Jones is keen to make an early impact and said in Friday's news conference: "We know what South Africa bring. They'll be a big pack and every team we face out here there'll be a big front five.

"As a prop, it's a challenge that I'm looking forward to and I can't wait to get into."


British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (captain), Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Owen Farrell, Josh Adams, Finn Russell, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Hamish Watson, Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly.

Lions: EW Viljoen, Jamba Ulengo, Manuel Rass, Burger Odendaal, Rabz Maxwane; Jordan Hendrikse, Dillon Smit; Nathan McBeth, PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Ruben Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel, Sbusiso Sangweni, Vincent Tshituka, Francke Horn (captain).

Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole, Carlu Sadie, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morne van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel.


KEY OPTA FACTS

- Excluding their Test matches against the Springboks, the British and Irish Lions have suffered just one defeat in their 56 tour matches on South African soil since losing to Transvaal in 1968 (W54, D1), with the solitary defeat in that run coming against Northern Transvaal in 1997.

- The Lions won just one of their five completed matches in this year's Rainbow Cup SA (L4), against the Bulls in round four; their three games at Emirates Airlines Park saw an average of 66 points and nine tries scored per game (W1 L2).

- The Lions averaged the most carries (103) and passes (125) per game of any team in this year's Rainbow Cup SA, averaging 16 minutes and 35 seconds in possession per match, more than any other side; however, they gained the fewest metres (350) and beat the fewest defenders (19) on average.

- Finn Russell assisted 12 tries in the Top 14 for Racing 92 in the 2020-21 season, more than any other player in the league, and a competition-high four of those assists came from kicks.

- Sam Simmonds scored 21 tries for Exeter Chiefs in the recently concluded English Premiership, the most any player has managed for any side in an edition of the competition. He also topped the charts for carries (263), was the only forward to gain 1,000-plus metres, made the second most tackles (234) and beat the second most defenders (63) of any player.

South Africa marked their return to Test action with a commanding 40-9 victory over Georgia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday.

The Springboks had not competed since winning the Rugby World Cup in November 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic and initially took time to get going in Pretoria.

But the hosts slowly loosened up on and crossed over six times to make a positive start to preparations for their upcoming three-match Test series with the British and Irish Lions

Aphelele Fassi was one of two players making their debut for the Boks, along with Rosko Specman, and he marked the occasion with the first try inside the opening five minutes from his very first touch.

Georgia had already got on the board by that point through Tedo Abzhandadze's penalty, and the fly-half kicked over twice more before South Africa next registered.

Following a sustained spell of pressure, Bongi Mbonambi went over from the maul to give the home team a platform to build on and they did not look back.

The world champions made the most of their man advantage after Beka Saghinadze was sin-binned as Cobus Reinach gathered a Fassi kick and raced through before half-time.

South Africa had more of a cutting edge to them in the second half, with Kwagga Smith picking up from the base to cross over and Herschel Jantjies doing likewise five minutes later thanks to some smart play from Handre Pollard.

Malcolm Marx was next to dot down following a powerful rolling maul as Jacques Nienaber's side moved through the gears.

The Springboks passed up a couple of promising situations in the remaining 10 minutes, but the damage had already been done as they claimed victory in the first of their two Tests with Georgia ahead of facing the Lions on July 24.

The British and Irish Lions will repeat a feat last achieved back in 1959 if they avoid a series defeat in South Africa.

Warren Gatland's side drew with New Zealand four years ago after a 2-1 triumph in Australia in 2013.

It is 62 years since the Lions were able to avoid defeat in a third consecutive tour and they will have to face the world champions without Alun Wyn Jones, who was replaced as captain by Conor Murray after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the win over Japan.

Confirmation on Sunday that three members of the Springboks squad have tested positive for coronavirus was a concern before the Lions boarded the plane to South Africa.

They are due to play five tour matches before the first Test against the Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on July 24.

Stats Perform picks out some of the standout Opta numbers for such an eagerly-awaited tour.

 

BOKS TO GO BACK-TO-BACK?

South Africa were 2-1 winners the last time the Lions toured in 2009, but they have not won back-to-back series since coming out on top in 1962 and 1968.

The Springboks have won eight, lost four and tied one of their previous series against the Lions.

South Africa can boast 23 victories to the Lions' 17, with six of the 46 previous showdowns ending in a draw.

There have been alternate winners in the past five series between the Lions and South Africa, a sequence the Lions will be hoping continues.

 

SOUTH-AFRICA-BORN FLYER AMONG DEADLY DEBUTANTS

While the loss of Jones and Justin Tipuric to injury in the win over Japan at Murrayfield were big blows, Gatland will have been encouraged by the performances of his debutants.

Three of the four try-scorers in Edinburgh were making their Lions bows, with Josh Adams, Duhan Van Der Merwe and Tadhg Beirne crossing.

South-Africa born Scotland wing Van der Merwe was the leading try-scorer in the Six Nations this year with six and beat 31 defenders in the tournament, breaking a record set by Brian O'Driscoll.

He can make a big impact against his country of birth along with Adams, the leading try-scorer at the 2019 World Cup with seven.

South Africa must also be wary of Louis Rees-Zammit, the youngest tourist aged 20, after he scored four Six Nations tries and had the most clean breaks (nine) in the competition, also gaining the most metres per carry (9.9m from 27 carries).

Beirne caught the eye against Japan and can play a big part in South Africa. He affected the most turnovers in the Six Nations with nine and was the first man to 87 rucks - the same number as Gregory Alldritt.

 

PASS MASTER MURRAY CAN DICTATE

Murray was surprised to be given the honour of skippering the Lions in the absence of the most-capped player in the history of international rugby.

The Ireland scrum-half has vast experience and can lead by example in his third Lions tour.

Murray has won two, lost two and drawn one of his previous Lions Tests and will look to pull the strings for the tourists.

The 32-year-old pivot has assisted 25 Six Nations tries, eight more than any other player, and holds the record for the most passes in the competition with 3,527. Peter Stringer is next on the list with 2,539.

 

KEY MEN CAN ROAR AGAIN

There were some outstanding performances in the Lions' tour of New Zealand as they drew 1-1 with the All Blacks.

Maro Itoje was among the heroes of that tour and the England lock will embrace the battle with the Springboks. He hit more rucks (162) than any other player in the Six Nations this year and amassed 16 turnovers.

Versatile back Liam Williams made the most metres by a Lions player on the tour in New Zealand four years ago with 344 from six games.

Gatland has been able to rely on Taulupe Faletau time and again over the years. The back-row made the most tackles (76) in New Zealand and beat more defenders (14) than any other forward.

It is nothing new for there to be uncertainty over what to expect for a British and Irish Lions touring party but the class of 2021 are well and truly stepping into the unknown.

Typically all the talk is over selection. Who starts at number 10? What will the make-up of the pack be, who gets the nod as the centre pairing or which wingers will be unleashed in the first Test?

Of course those questions are still to be answered, but when the Lions arrived in Johannesburg on Monday they were not only facing the challenge of trying to secure a starting berth.

A big surge in coronavirus cases has seen South Africa move into a 'level four' lockdown, with travel restrictions, an alcohol ban and an overnight curfew.

As the Lions were preparing to fly out on Sunday, it emerged that Springboks trio Herschel Jantjies, Vincent Koch and Sbu Nkosi had tested positive for COVID-19 - forcing training to be cancelled and the squad going into isolation.

They have since been given the green light to train and are set to face Georgia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on Friday in their first Test since beating England in the 2019 World Cup final.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since the drinks flowed as South Africa celebrated lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in Japan and they have a new head coach in Jacques Nienaber.

The world champions have also faced uncertainty, with the possibility of the Lions having home advantage or the series being staged in a neutral country before it was confirmed South Africa will host the tour.

While South Africa know they will not be entering the Lions den, Warren Gatland and his touring party are not certain where they might be heading just under a month before the first Test in Cape Town on July 24.

 

They are set to face a namesake in the Johannesburg-based Lions side, twice runners-up in Super Rugby, on Saturday as one the first of five matches in Gauteng but it is reported they could make further changes to the schedule.

The COVID situation has led to suggestions the entire three-match Test series could be played in Cape Town, with alternations to the fixtures having already been made last month.

Hostile crowds usually await the Lions, but they are set to face the might of the Springboks behind closed doors without an army of travelling fans to roar them on.

They must also go into battle without inspirational leader Alun Wyn Jones, ruled out due to a dislocated shoulder in the win over Japan at Murrayfield along with Wales team-mate Justin Tipuric.

A strong camaraderie will be needed more than ever, with Conor Murray promoted to skipper the side in the absence of stalwart Jones.

But there will be a lack of nights out as they are restricted to bonding in the bubble.

Gatland's men drew 1-1 with then-world champions New Zealand four years ago and can make it three series without defeat next month - a streak that has not been achieved since 1959.

They have the same head coach and key men who starred against the All Blacks, combined with exciting new faces such as South Africa-born wing Duhan van der Merwe and Louis Rees-Zammit.

Gatland may be unsure what challenges the Lions will face on and off the field before the opening Test but the wily New Zealander knows will know what to expect from a formidable South Africa side.

South Africa Rugby has announced the entire Springboks squad is self-isolating after three players tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Test series against the British and Irish Lions.

Following the discovery of the trio of cases during PCR testing in Johannesburg, the reigning world champions announced the cancellation of a planned training session on Sunday.

Team management will consult with medical experts before deciding what steps to take next, with the isolation of players and staff coming just as the Lions prepare to fly out from Edinburgh.

"The Springboks cancelled Sunday's planned training session in Johannesburg as a precautionary measure when scheduled testing protocols returned three positive COVID-19 test results when the team assembled on Saturday," a statement read.

"Three players tested positive for the virus following stringent real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing procedures on arrival at the team base.

"Team management immediately put the squad into self-isolation as a precaution until specialist medical advice is sought from the medical advisory group (MAG).

"A decision on further team activities will be made shortly.

"Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus emphasised that the team had followed all the necessary precautions since the start of the three-week conditioning camp hosted in Bloemfontein, which included mandatory COVID-19 testing three times a week, and that they would be led by specialist advice before any action is taken."

 

The Lions have had problems to deal with before departing for South Africa, captain Alun Wyn Jones suffering a dislocated shoulder during the warm-up win over Japan on Saturday that will see him miss the entire trip.

Fellow Wales international Justin Tipuric is another to be ruled out following the 28-10 victory at Murrayfield, with head coach Warren Gatland calling up Adam Beard and Josh Navidi as replacements.

Conor Murray, meanwhile, is to take over the captaincy duties in the absence of Jones, who was set to lead the squad on his fourth tour with the Lions.

The three-match Test series against the Springboks begins at Cape Town Stadium on July 24.

Conor Murray has spoken of his surprise at being named British and Irish Lions captain after Alun Wyn Jones was ruled out of the tour of South Africa.

Jones suffered a dislocated shoulder early in the Lions' win over Japan on Saturday, while Justin Tipuric also misses the tour due to a shoulder injury sustained at Murrayfield.

Warren Gatland turned to Ireland scrum-half Murray to take over as skipper, with Adam Beard and Josh Navidi called up as replacements for their Wales team-mates Jones and Tipuric.

Murray was not expecting to be asked to lead the Lions in what will be his third tour.

Asked if he was surprised Gatland wanted him to step up, the pivot said: "A little bit to be honest.

"I didn't even think about it. I knew that Al was out and then you look around the squad and there are so many contenders.

"Warren asked me just before the cap ceremony and it was surreal. I still don't have my head around it, but it's an unbelievable honour. It's something that I never thought would be possible.

"I didn't think about it long. I said, 'absolutely, it'll be a massive honour. Thank you very much for this opportunity'.

"Then you kind of think about how big it is and then obviously my phone has gone a bit crazy since it was announced.

"I tried to call my girlfriend Joanna, but her phone was on one per cent as usual. Her phone was off and my dad is in Edinburgh, he was out with his friends having a few drinks, and so he was the first person I spoke to.

"My mum's in Kerry and I rang her. She's down with a few friends who were watching the Japan game and they're celebrating too, so it still hasn't sunk in to be honest."

 

Murray said the loss of Jones is a big blow for the Lions.

"We're very disappointed to lose Alun Wyn. He's been brilliant for the first two weeks. I've known him from the past two tours and he's been incredible. It's a huge loss,” Murray said.

"He came up to me and said 'congrats and just be yourself' and I think that's really important. Growing up, you probably thought you had to try and be a certain type of person to be a leader, but you just have to be yourself.

"Once you have the respect of the group around you, that's a massive plus, a massive thing that can calm you down a bit. If you have the respect of the lads and you do what you do and you do it honestly, then it should be fine.

"It's a huge honour, but there's such a good group of leaders in this squad that makes it less daunting, definitely. There are lads that you can lean on, lads who have captained their country.

"There's massive experience there so you know it'll definitely be a group thing. I'm going to enjoy it and again lean on those boys. It'll take a bit of getting used to, but it's such an honour."

Conor Murray has been named as the British and Irish Lions captain for the upcoming tour of South Africa after injury ruled out Alun Wyn Jones.

Jones was ruled out of the tour, along with Justin Tipuric, on Saturday after he sustained a shoulder injury in the Lions' 28-10 win over Japan.

Irish scrum-half Murray, 32, has been handed the captaincy, with Lions head coach Warren Gatland bullish about his capability in Jones' absence.

"We’re all incredibly disappointed for Alun Wyn and Justin," Gatland said. "The timing of these injuries seem particularly cruel given we fly to South Africa tomorrow [Sunday], but unfortunately they’re part of the game.

"Alun Wyn will obviously be a big loss, both on and off the field, but will be ably replaced by Conor.

"Conor is an outstanding rugby player and is held in the highest regard with both the players and coaches.

"As a three-time Lions tourist, he knows what will be required as captain and I am certain he will lead the squad with excellence. He will also be well supported by an experienced leadership group."

Adam Beard and Josh Navidi have been added to the Lions squad to replace Jones and Tipuric.

British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones has been ruled out of the tour of South Africa after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the 28-10 victory over Japan.

Jones had to be replaced in the eighth minute of the warm-up Test at Murrayfield on Saturday after sustaining the injury while being cleared out of a ruck as he attempted to get his hands on the ball.

Lions head coach Gatland confirmed after the match that Jones will not fly out to face the world champions.

The New Zealander said: "He's dislocated his shoulder.

"Prognosis of him being fit and very, very best-case scenario is the first Test [in Cape Town on July 24]. He's going to go and get a scan but we’re looking like we’re going to have to replace him."

Gatland added: "It’s pretty much made [the decision that Jones will not travel to South Africa], I was speaking to the physios, I’ve spoken to Alun Wyn.

"He understands, very best case scenario, he may get back for the Test but we need to call someone in and hopefully get them on the flight tomorrow.

"It's very disappointing, he’s been around rugby long enough, he's going to be gutted, I'm very disappointed for him. It's one of those things, you’ve got to put that behind you and move on as quickly as possible you can."

Gatland will consider who to replace lock Jones with in the squad and a new skipper.

He added: "We are discussing a couple of names at the moment, unfortunately I got called away to do a press conference.

"I'm going back to finalise that after I've spoken to you guys, we’ll make that call, have a discussion about who comes in and potentially who’s going to take over as tour captain as well."

Justin Tipuric also suffered a shoulder injury early on but Gatland is unsure of the extent of the damage.

The former Wales boss said: "It was a sting in the shoulder. We're going to check, to make sure there's no nerve damage.

"If there was nerve impingement that could rule him out - at the moment, pretty sure he’s going to be okay."

A hamstring injury sustained by Jack Conan will also be checked on.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones suffered an early injury blow before three British and Irish Lions debutants scored tries in a 28-10 defeat of Japan at Murrayfield.

Jones was withdrawn in pain in the eighth minute of the first-ever Lions Test in Scotland on Saturday with what was reported to be a shoulder injury.

Justin Tipuric was also forced off with an injury in the first half of the Lions' first meeting with Japan ahead of the tour of South Africa, which Warren Gatland's side won comfortably to lift the 1888 Cup.

Josh Adams, Duhan van der Merwe and Tadhg Beirne marked their debuts with a try, while Robbie Henshaw also touched down and the excellent Dan Biggar was on target with all four conversions.

Japan, playing their first Test since losing to the Springboks in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Cup, entertained in the second half and were rewarded with a try from Kazuki Himeno.

There was concern for the Lions when skipper Jones was replaced early on after doing damage while trying to turn the ball over before his Wales team-mate Adams got the first points on the board.

The winger showed great feet and good strength to come in off the line and power his way over following a strong run from Bundee Aki.

Tipuric also made a concerning early exit before Van der Merwe caught Japan napping, picking the ball up from the back of a ruck and crossing all too easily.

The Lions were dominant and Ireland centre Henshaw ploughed over from close range after taking a pass from Conor Murray, with the impressive Biggar's third successful conversion increasing the lead to 21-0.

Courtney Lawes, Jones' replacement, lost control before grounding the ball when he crashed over early in the second half, but Beirne took a great line and showed a sharp turn of foot to burst through and go under the posts.

The Brave Blossoms enjoyed themselves after the break and Himeno finished following a lineout routine as the Lions defence work given a great workout with bigger tests to come.

 

Lions wait on Jones and Tipuric

It takes a lot to keep Jones down, so the sight of the lock grimacing on the deck and taking a rueful look to the skies was a worry for the Lions.

Gatland faces an anxious wait to discover the extent of the most-capped player in Test history's injury before the Lions board the plane to South Africa.

Flanker Tipuric's involvement was also brief just under a month before the first Test against the world champions in Cape Town.

 

Debut delight 

Wales winger Adams and Scotland flyer Van der Merwe wasted no time in marking their mark on their Lions bows.

Van Der Merwe, the leading try-scorer in the Six Nations this year, made 72 metres from eight carries and beat four defenders.

Adams did not see as much of the ball, but grasped his early chance, while Beirne made 49 metres from his 10 carries and won two turnovers in an eye-catching display.

There was concern for the British and Irish Lions when captain Alun Wyn Jones was forced off early in Saturday's Test against Japan.

Jones was withdrawn after doing damage while trying to turn the ball over in the eighth minute of the match at Murrayfield.

The lock appeared to injure his left wrist and walked off the field shaking his head in the warm-up match ahead of the tour of South Africa.

Jones, the most-capped player in Test history, was replaced by England lock Courtney Lawes.

The Lions start the three-match series against the Springboks at Cape Town Stadium on July 24.

The British and Irish Lions can expect a rousing send-off when they face Japan for the first time at Murrayfield on Saturday before the tour of South Africa.

Rory Sutherland, Duhan van der Merwe, Josh Adams, Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan will make their Lions debuts in a warm-up showdown with the Brave Blossoms.

Four weeks before the first Test against the Springboks, Alun Wyn Jones will lead out a Lions side that does not feature any England players.

One thousand four hundred and forty-nine days since the final match of a drawn series in New Zealand, Warren Gatland's men will be backed by a crowd of 16,500 for the historic 1888 Cup clash in Edinburgh against a Japan side playing for the first time since the 2019 World Cup.

Gatland said: "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.

"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."

Japan head coach Jamie Joseph said: "There is a great spirit among the team and a collective excitement. Playing the Lions for the first time holds huge significance for Japanese rugby.

"And as a team, we’re looking forward to once again be playing on the world stage and to be taking on a team with the unique strength and history of the Lions.

"This is a strong Japanese team combining a solid foundation of experience, with some exciting new players who have earned the right to represent Japan at test match level."

 

VAN DER MERWE AMONG SCOTS WHO CAN FLOWER

Clinical wing Van der Merwe was the leading try-scorer in the Six Nations this year with five.

The flyer is among a strong Scottish contingent who will be so eager to put on a show in front of a home crowd.

Van der Merwe was born in the Western Cape province of South Africa but is ready to roar against his country of birth next month.

He has made a magnificent start to his international career, scoring eight tries in 10 Tests, and his ruthlessness will be key for the Lions in the coming weeks.

 

MURRAY AND BIGGAR CAN MAKE A STATEMENT

Gatland has gone with the experienced half-back pairing of Dan Biggar and Conor Murray to start against Japan.

Wales fly-half Biggar will be looking to lay down a marker, with Owen Farrell among the replacements.

Ireland scrum-half Murray got the nod ahead of Scotland playmaker Ali Price, who will get a raucous reception when he comes off the bench.

The Irish midfield pairing of Robbie Henshaw and Aki will be expected to give Japan a torrid afternoon with a combination of their power and pace.

 

The British and Irish Lions: Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Rory Sutherland, Ken Owens, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Tadhg Beirne, Justin Tipuric, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Jamie George, Wyn Jones, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson.

Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita, Yu Tamura, Kaito Shigeno; Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate, Jiwon Koo, Wimpie van der Walt, James Moore, Michael Leitch (captain), Lappies Labuschagné, Amanaki Mafi.

Replacements: Kosuke Horikoshi, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Jack Cornelson, Kazuki Himeno, Tevita Tatafu, Naoto Saito, Rikiya Matsuda.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS:

- Skipper Jones will play his 21st game with the Lions. The lock has scored two tries for the Lions, each one coming in the first game of a tour (v Royal XV in 2009 and the Barbarians in 2013).
- Japan failed to score a try in their most recent Test, a loss to South Africa in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on home soil. That ended of run of 46 straight Tests in which they'd crossed the try line at least once.
- The Brave Blossoms have played lost all five games in Scotland. Their most recent loss was a 42-17 thumping in November 2013.
- This will be the first Lions match in Scotland and only the fourth time a game will be played at a venue in the UK or Ireland (also Twickenham, Cardiff Arms Park and the Principality Stadium). The Lions have a balanced record at home with one win, one draw, one loss, 55 points scored and 54 conceded on aggregate.

Warren Gatland has named eight debutants in the British and Irish Lions side to face Japan on Saturday.

The Lions will take on Japan for the first time at Murrayfield before heading on tour to South Africa for a three-Test series with the Springboks.

Their first tour match in South Africa takes place on July 3 against former Super Rugby side the Lions, who finished as runners-up three times in that competition.

None of the 11 England players in the Lions squad feature in the starting XV for the Japan game, which will be witnessed by 16,500 fans in Edinburgh.

Four Scotland players will make their first appearance for the Lions, with props Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson primed to make their bow along with flanker Hamish Watson and wing Duhan van der Merwe.

Inside Centre Bundee Aki and wing Josh Adams are set to make debuts among the backs, while back-rows Tadgh Beirne and Jack Conan will get their first taste of Lions rugby.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will make his 21st Lions appearance.

"The crowd will give the players an enormous lift," said 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 & Irish Lions team: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Conor Murray; 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 Ken Owens, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Iain Henderson, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 6 Tadhg Beirne, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Jack Conan.

Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Ali Price, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Anthony Watson.

Fraser Dingwall has been called up to the England squad in place of Manu Tuilagi, who has withdrawn due to injury.

The Sale Sharks centre was hurt during his side's 40-30 Premiership semi-final defeat to Exeter Chiefs last Saturday.

Tuilagi, who missed the autumn internationals last year and England's Six Nations campaign, was only three games into a return following an Achilles problem sustained last September.

Northampton Saints' Dingwall has joined up with Eddie Jones' squad ahead of the match between England A and Scotland A in Leicester on Sunday.

Jones' men then play a Test match double-header against the United States at Twickenham on July 4 and July 10.

The Hurricanes made it four wins from five in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman as they defeated a luckless Reds 43-14 in Wellington on Friday.

There were just three points separating the sides approaching the hour mark before the Hurricanes made the most of clinical scoring and good fortune to ease to victory.

The Reds had nearly 60 per cent of the possession and 637 carries to their opponents' 564 but saw crucial moments go against them as they suffered a fourth defeat in five games.

Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape's try opened the scoring but Tate McDermott's converted score levelled the contest after Tyrel Lomax had been sin-binned for a high tackle.

Jordie Barrett's penalty gave the 14-man Hurricanes a 10-7 lead at half-time before the Reds lost Filipo Daugunu to a contentious yellow card, with Ruben Love touching down soon after.

Brandon Paenga-Amosa powered over after some intense forward pressure but Dane Cole's try following a soft lineout began the Hurricanes' late surge.

Laumape was awarded a penalty try after he and Bryce Hegarty chased a kick, the referee showing the latter yellow after ruling he had deliberately hit the ball over the line to prevent a score.

Replacement Devan Flanders and a second from Coles in the final nine minutes further punished the men from Queensland.

The Highlanders secured what could be an important 33-12 bonus-point win over the Brumbies that boosted their play-off hopes.

Aaron Smith scored two tries and assisted two more in a match in which the Highlanders scored 19 unanswered points in the second half.

Len Ikitau broke the deadlock for the Brumbies but Smith, Ash Dixon and Billy Harmon put the visitors in control in Canberra, despite Lachlan Lonergan also going over.

Patelesio Tomkinson got the crucial fifth try as the Highlanders held off some late pressure to make it five wins from five ahead of the final day of home-and-away matches.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.