SA-born Duhan van der Merwe starts for Lions against Japan
FOUR Scotland players have been selected in the British & Irish Lions starting XV for Saturday’s landmark match against Japan in Edinburgh.
Wing Duhan van der Merwe, flank Hamish Watson and props Zander Fagerson and Rory Sutherland will all make their debuts for the combined side, who will be skippered by tour captain Alun Wyn Jones.
This match, staged a day before the squad departs for South Africa for a tour that culminates with a three-Test series against the world champion Springboks, will be the first time the Lions have played in Scotland, with this warm-up fixture also their first match against Japan.
The back row selected by Warren Gatland will all be making their Lions debuts, with Ireland’s Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan joining Watson in the loose-forward trio.
But the veteran coach – in charge of the Lions for a third successive tour after a 2013 series win in Australia was followed by a drawn 2017 Test campaign in his native New Zealand – has selected an experienced halfback pairing of Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray and Wales No 10 Dan Biggar.
Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw form an all-Ireland centre pairing, with a crowd limited to 16 500 because of coronavirus restrictions expected at Murrayfield for what will be just the Lions’ third match in Britain.
“We’re anticipating a tough game against Japan – a side that like to play at a high tempo and shift the ball,”
Gatland said after announcing his team yesterday.
“We saw throughout the (2019) World Cup, they have attacking threats across the park and a solid defence and setpiece.”
The former Wales head coach added: “I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made during our training camp in Jersey so far, but we’ve got a long way to go.
“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.”
15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (capt), 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rory Sutherland. 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.