Conor Murray, Chris Harris and Mako Vunipola have been called up alongside the British and Irish Lions to face South Africa in Saturday’s second round with Warren Gatland making three changes as the tourists look to wrap up the series.
Murray was named replacement tour captain last month when Alun Wyn Jones suffered a shoulder dislocation, but resigned when the second row returned to the team. Murray was later dropped from the starting lineup last week with Ali Price preferred, but will make his fourth Lions start in Cape Town on Saturday.
Price can be considered unfortunate, having been among the Lions’ best players in last weekend’s 22-17 win over South Africa, but Murray’s experience has apparently worked in his favor as Gatland’s team looks to deliver the deciding blow.
Harris, meanwhile, was among the surprise inclusions for the 37-man touring kickoff party, but he’s proven to be a reliable performer outside of downtown. Elliot Daly started there last weekend but struggled after being greeted with a thunderous tackle from his opposite number Lukhanyo Am early on. Daly falls to the bench with Liam Williams out of 23 overall.
As reported by The Guardian, Vunipola is selected as a loose-headed mainstay (Rory Sutherland falls to the bench) after an impressive performance last weekend as a replacement. Vunipola initially fell out of 23 last week, but was called up after a Wyn Jones injury and seized his opportunity, making his impact felt at the scrum.
Dan Biggar has been named as a fly-half, but he continues to go through return-to-game head injury evaluation protocols and cannot resume contact training until Thursday at the earliest. You must also pass an evaluation by an independent concussion counselor before you are given the green light to play with Owen Farrell, newly appointed to the bench, waiting.
“As always, the selection was incredibly difficult,” Gatland said. “However, we have made the changes that we think are the right decisions for the weekend’s game. “It will be another close competition. We know the Springboks will be in pain and will pitch to us all Saturday, but I think there is a lot more to come from us as well. We believe that we can go up another level from where we were in the first test and I hope that we will improve.
“It is the most important game of the tour and we have to accept the expectations that it carries. As players and coaches, these are the games you want to participate in. We are enjoying the opportunity to face the Springboks again on Saturday and potentially seal a series win. “
On the other hand, Taulupe Faletau comes to the bench with no place for Hamish Watson, while the rest of the team remains unchanged. That means Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tadhg Furlong continue in the front row, Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje stay as locks and Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry and Jack Conan make up the last row once again. Robbie Henshaw stays inside center and Duhan van der Merwe, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg have three runners unchanged.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism