Marcus Smith, the 22-year-old Harlequins outhalf who has just won his first two caps for England and landed in Cape Town last Monday, has been pitched straight into the British and Irish Lions team for their final tour game before the first test against the Stormers on Saturday.
As expected, Warren Gatland has entirely changed the starting team from Wednesday night’s defeat by the South Africa ‘A’ side for the match against the Stormers at Cape Town Stadium (kick-off 5pm Irish time).
There are four Irish players in the starting team, with Robbie Henshaw named at inside centre after recovering from his hamstring twinge. Tadhg Furlong, Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan have also been named in the pack, the latter two featuring alongside Hamish Watson in the backrow.
Following a period of isolation in Johannesburg, Stuart Hogg will captain the side from fullback. Smith, called up ahead of Johnny Sexton, makes his Lions debut in playing for his third different side in the past month.
With Finn Russell's participating in the series in doubt, once again there is no outhalf cover on the bench amid possible concerns about Dan Biggar (ankle) and Owen Farrell (abdominal strain). Presumably Hogg will provide the cover there.
Josh Adams also returns to the starting line-up following the birth of his daughter last night, while following his return to the squad, Alun Wyn Jones is also named among the replacements.
“It’s an important game as it’s the final chance for the coaching group to see the players perform prior to the start of the Test Series,” said Gatland.
“For the matchday 23 it’s their last opportunity to stake a claim for a Test place, so I expect to see a highly motivated group of players.
“It is particularly pleasing to be able to name Stuart Hogg in the squad. He’s not had much luck on Lions Tours to date, so it’ll be great to see him cross the whitewash again with the captain’s armband.
“I’m also delighted that Marcus will get his first start in a Lions jersey. I’ve been really impressed with his attitude since coming into camp this week; he’s been like a sponge for information.
"Obviously it's a tight turnaround from Wednesday's game but we're in pretty good shape. The South Africa 'A' game was a physical encounter - we always knew it would be - but we've come out of it pretty much intact and ready to go again. Liam Williams will begin his return to play protocol following his HIA.
“We learnt a lot from Wednesday’s game and I hope the defeat will serve us well. There’re still some areas of the game we need to tighten up on, particularly reducing our turnover rate.
“Time and again on this Tour we’ve had to adapt in the face of the challenges created by Covid-19. I couldn’t be prouder of the staff and the players for the role each of them has played to get us to this point on the Tour.”
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Stuart Hogg - captain (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland); Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales), Elliot Daly (Saracens, England), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland); Marcus Smith (Harlequins, England), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland); Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland); Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales), Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England); Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland), Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland).
Replacements: Jamie George (Saracens, England), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England), Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales).