By Nick Said
CAPE TOWN (Reuters) -Alun Wyn Jones’ remarkable return from injury is complete after he was named captain of the British & Irish Lions side to face South Africa at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, a team that also contains three Scots for the first time in 24 years.
Lock Jones had initially been ruled out of the tour after he dislocated his shoulder in the warm-up victory over Japan on June 26, but with the injury less severe than first feared, he was able to re-join the squad in Cape Town last week and played 30 minutes against the Stormers on Saturday.
Ali Price has been named ahead of Conor Murray in the scrumhalf berth, and along with wing Duhan van der Merwe and fullback Stuart Hogg makes it a trio of Scottish players in a Lions starting XV for the first time since the 1997 tour of South Africa, where assistant coach Gregor Townsend played.
Dan Biggar got the nod at flyhalf ahead of Owen Farrell, with Robbie Henshaw and Elliot Daly the centre pairing. Anthony Watson is the other wing.
Jones will partner Maro Itoje in the second row, with props Wyn Jones and Tadhg Furlong, and hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie ahead of them in the scrum.
Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry are the flankers, with Jack Conan a surprise pick at number eight over Taulupe Faletau, who is not in the match-day 23 at all
It is Welshman Jones’ 10th Lions cap, moving him alongside Gareth Edwards in the all-time list, and behind other greats of the game in Graham Price (12 caps), Mike Gibson (12) Dickie Jeeps (13) and Willie-John McBride (17).
"In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in," coach Warren Gatland said.
"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.
"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."
Team: 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Anthony Watson, 13-Elliot Daly, 12-Robbie Henshaw, 11-Duhan van der Merwe, 10-Dan Biggar, 9-Ali Price, 8-Jack Conan, 7-Tom Curry, 6-Courtney Lawes, 5-Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 4-Maro Itoje, 3-Tadhg Furlong, 2-Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1-Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16-Ken Owens, 17-Rory Sutherland, 18-Kyle Sinckler, 19-Tadhg Beirne, 20-Hamish Watson, 21-Conor Murray, 22-Owen Farrell, 23-Liam Williams.
(Reporting by Nick Said; editing by John Stonestreet and Christian Radnedge)