British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg to captain Lions in South Africa opener

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Stuart Hogg will captain a Lions team containing six Englishmen and five Scots in their first match in South Africa, against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday. 

Head coach Warren Gatland has said every player in the 37-strong squad will start at least one of the first three matches of the tour, and Wales’s Josh Adams is the only surviving starter from the 28-10 victory over Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday, a game which cost them captain Alun Wyn Jones and Justin Tipuric to injury. 

Conor Murray was named tour captain in Jones’s place but will sit out this game, with Hogg named skipper and Scotland’s Ali Price coming in at scrum-half, inside Finn Russell. Openside Hamish Watson, who missed the Japan game with concussion, are the other Scots in the XV.

With many of their players arriving late for the training camp in Jersey, there is strong English representation. Owen Farrell is named at inside centre and there are five English forwards: Jamie George at hooker; Kyle Sinckler at tight-head; Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill in the second row; and Courtney Lawes at blindside flanker. 

Watch: Stuart Hogg to seek advice from Alun Wyn Jones before leading Lions

Four more are on the bench, in Luke Cowan-Dickie, Sam Simmonds, Mako Vunipola and Elliot Daly. 

Alongside Hill, Louis Rees-Zammit and Chris Harris will be making their Lions debuts in the starting XV. 

“I’ve been encouraged by the way the boys have trained this week,” said Gatland. “I feel it’s gone up a level from where we were in Jersey and we’re starting to see a better understanding of some of our tactics.

“There’s some new player combinations for us to have a look at this Saturday, which is good information for us as the Test Series approaches.”

Besides the recently called-up Adam Beard and Josh Navidi, the only player not involved in either matchday squad is Tom Curry. Anthony Watson, who came off the bench against Japan, does not feature this week. 

With South Africa now in Level 4 lockdown, there is much uncertainty around the tour. Consideration has been given to shifting more matches from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

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