Lions team: Bundee Aki to start with six changes made for South Africa decider

Conor Murray left out of the team as Warren Gatland makes six changes for final Test

Bundee Aki will start for the Lions against South Africa on Saturday. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Bundee Aki will start for the Lions against South Africa on Saturday. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Third Test: South Africa v British & Irish Lions

Kick-off: 5pm, Saturday. Venue: Cape Town Stadium. How to follow: The Irish Times liveblog will begin at 4.30pm. On TV: Live on Sky Sports Rugby and Sky Sports Main Event.

Warren Gatland has rung the changes for Saturday’s series decider in Cape Town against South Africa. All told there are half a dozen alterations in personnel to the starting XV compared to the second Test, which the Lions lost 27-9.

Bundee Aki has been called up for his Lions test debut and will renew his old Connacht partnership with Robbie Henshaw, who moves to outside centre, in a reprise of the combination which so impressed Gatland when Ireland beat England on the final day of the Six Nations.

There are two changes in the back three, where the tour’s leading try-scorer, Josh Adams, makes his Lions Test debut on the right wing while, as expected, Liam Williams has been recalled at full-back. Somewhat surprisingly, Duhan van der Merwe keeps his place on the left. Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson and Chris Harris all drop out of the matchday squad.

Ali Price is restored at scrumhalf alongside Dan Biggar, with Conor Murray dropping back to the bench, akin to the first Test.

The British & Irish Lions

Full coverage of all the action in South Africa READ MORE

There are two changes to the frontrow, where the fit-again Welsh loosehead Wyn Jones will pack down alongside the promoted Ken Owens and Tadhg Furlong.

The backrow of Courtney Lawes, Jack Conan and Tom Curry has been retained, as has the second-row of Maro Itoje and captain Alun Wyn Jones, who wins his 12th consecutive cap moving him alongside Graham Price (1977 - 1983) and Mike Gibson (1966 - 1974) in the list of most Lions Test appearances.

On the bench, Adam Beard, Sam Simmonds and Finn Russell feature for the first time in the Test Series and will all win their first Lions cap should they take the field, as Rory Sutherland, Tadhg Beirne, Taulupe Faletau and Owen Farrell all drop out of the matchday squad. Iain Henderson again misses out.

Kyle Sinckler is named among the replacements subject to the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.

“The matchday 23 have an incredibly special opportunity in front of them - to seal a Lions Series victory in South Africa,” said Gatland.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than this and we’re excited by the challenge that faces us on Saturday.

“We’ve no excuses from last week, the Springboks put us under pressure in the second half and deserved the win. We have to be much better than that second half performance, and I believe we will be.”

British and Irish Lions: Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales); Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland); Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland); Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland); Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), Alun Wyn Jones - captain (Ospreys, Wales); Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland).

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England), Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England), Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland), Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland), Elliot Daly (Saracens, England).

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