Lions make three changes to starting line-up for second test against the Springboks
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DURBAN - Historically, the Lions have lost just two Test series after winning the first Test (against New Zealand in 1930 and Australia in 2001), so they are tantalisingly close to revenging their defeat to the Boks in 2009.
Coach Warren Gatland had to make some big selection calls ahead of the first Test because he had so many players in form, and he would feel vindicated after the 22-17 win.
Predictably, he has not made vast changes for Saturday’s second Test, but he has tinkered here and there. At outside centre, Scotland’s Chris Harris comes in for Englishman Elliot Daly and the experienced Irish scrumhalf Conor Murray has been recalled for Scotland’s Ali Price.
In the front row, Mako Vunipola has been rewarded for his strong performance off the bench last week and he comes in for Rory Sutherland.
Alun Wyn Jones is named captain to win his 11th successive Lions Test cap. The Welshman is again partnered by last Saturday’s Player of the Match, Maro Itoje.
Vunipola packs down with hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tadhg Furlong to complete the front row.
Courtney Lawes wins his fourth Lions Test cap on the blind side flank joining Tom Curry on the open side and Jack Conan at No. 8.
Dan Biggar who will play flyhalf subject to completing the return-to-play protocol and assessment by an independent concussion consultant, partners Murray.
Harris joins Robbie Henshaw in midfield while the back three of Anthony Watson, Duhan van der Merwe and Stuart Hogg stay the same.
“As always, the selection was incredibly tough,” said Gatland. “However, we’ve made the changes we think are the right calls for the weekend’s game.
“It’ll be another tight contest. We know the Springboks will be hurting and they’ll throw everything at us on Saturday, but I think there’s plenty more to come from us too. We feel we can go up another level from where we were in the first Test and I would expect us to improve.
“It’s the biggest game on the Tour and we have to embrace the expectation that comes with it. As players and coaches, these are the games you want to be involved in. We’re relishing the opportunity to face the Springboks again on Saturday and potentially seal a Series win.”
15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland), 14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England), 13. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland), 12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), 11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), 10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), 9. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland), 8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), 7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), 6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England), 5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales), 4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), 3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), 1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England)
16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), 17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), 18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England), 19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland), 20. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales), 21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland),22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England), 23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England).