England’s Tom Curry to make Lions debut against Sharks as Iain Henderson captains side

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

English back-rowers Tom Curry and Sam Simmonds start in a British and Irish Lions side captained by Ireland’s Iain Henderson against the Sharks in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The Lions scored eight tries in beating the Sigma Lions 56-14 on Saturday in their first game on South African soil. They have four more before the First Test on July 24.

Coach Warren Gatland has been true to his word that every member of the squad would start one of the first three games (including the pre-departure victory over Japan).

Accordingly, three more players – Curry, and the late injury replacements Josh Navidi and Adam Beard – make their debuts, while Simmonds and Luke Cowan-Dickie are among those making their first starts in red.

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There are also first starts of this tour for Englishmen Anthony Watson (who, like Curry, has been nursing a minor injury on tour), Mako Vunipola and Elliot Daly, who lines up in his preferred position of outside centre.

Navidi, Curry and Simmonds – who came off the bench on Saturday – form a dynamic back-row.

“Wednesday night is another chance for us to have a look at a few more combinations,” said Gatland. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the back row goes; it’s an exciting mixture and one that we hope will offer something a bit different.

“We expect another physical test against a side who are known for their power play and ambition.”

Henderson captains the side from the second row, with tour captain Conor Murray and Stuart Hogg, skipper against the Sigma Lions, both on the bench. Murray took over from Alun Wyn Jones, who is at home nursing a shoulder injury suffered against Japan.

Henderson is one of five players in the starting XV who also started against Japan. The 29-year-old has captained Ireland once, in this year’s Six Nations against France, and is a leading contender to take Jones’s place in the Test side alongside Maro Itoje.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Itoje, Owen Farrell and Jamie George all take a break after facing the Sigma Lions, but Scotland’s Stuart Hogg – covering fly-half – and Chris Harris are called back into action from the bench.

Gatland admitted delight that his squad came through the Sigma Lions game unscathed. Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw misses this match with a minor hamstring injury picked up against Japan, but is not considered a doubt for the three Tests against the Springboks.

“I’m pleased we managed to come through the weekend’s game unscathed, and the boys have rested and recovered well,” said Gatland. “We feel like we’re slowly building, but, as ever, there’s still room for improvement in all facets of our game.”

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