Warren Gatland’s gut instinct is usually right; Ian O’Riordan on a marathon journey to Tokyo

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Alun Wyn Jones is back to captain the Lions against South Africa in Saturday’sopening Test match. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Alun Wyn Jones is back to captain the Lions against South Africa in Saturday’sopening Test match. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The Lions 23 for the opening Test match against the Springboks in Cape Town on Saturday (kick-off 5pm) was confirmed yesterday, with three Irish players named in Warren Gatland’s starting XV. The chosen Irish trio are Tadhg Furlong, Robbie Henshaw and Jack Conan - with Conor Murray’s place on the bench behind Scotland scrumhalf Ali Price one of the more controversial selection decisions. Some other big names such as Liam Williams miss out on a starting berth while Talupe Faletau misses out on the matchday squad altogether, with Gatland picking on form rather than just reputation. And as Gerry Thornley writes this morning, the Kiwi’s gut instinct usually serves him well: “If history has taught us anything, it’s that Gatland is not only an exceptional head coach, he is a good selector. . . Yet it’s still surprising that big-game hunters like Murray and Williams aren’t starting. Both possess the kind of strength, defence, kicking game, aerial ability and experience which looks tailor-made for this challenge.” You can see the full Lions line-up HERE.

The much-maligned, controversial 2020 Tokyo Olympics officially gets underway tomorrow, with the opening ceremony scheduled for 12pm Irish time. And this morning Ian O’Riordan has reflected on his marathon journey to Tokyo - which tested his endurance as well as for Covid, repeatedly. “Because on arrival, the Tokyo marathon journey was only beginning: first, the arrival of Japanese immigration to hand around more forms to be filled before anyone gets off the plane (flight transfers first, Tokyo residents next). Only then did the real test of endurance begin, most of the 150 passengers Olympics bound, naturally, therefore required to deliver and pass another PCR test on arrival - this one involving the spitting of your own saliva into a small test tube, identified by another bar code.”

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