Conor Murray, Chris Harris and Mako Vunipola have been called into the British & Irish Lions side to face South Africa in Saturday’s second Test with Warren Gatland making three changes as the tourists seek to wrap up the series.
Murray was named as the replacement tour captain last month when Alun Wyn Jones suffered a dislocated shoulder but relinquished the role when the second row returned to the squad. Murray was then omitted from the starting lineup last week with Ali Price preferred but will make his fourth Lions start in Cape Town on Saturday.
Price can consider himself unlucky, having been among the Lions’ better performers in last weekend’s 22-17 victory over South Africa but Murray’s experience has seemingly worked in his favour as Gatland’s side look to deliver the decisive blow.
Harris, meanwhile, was among the surprise inclusions for the initial 37-man touring party but has proved a reliable performer at outside-centre. Elliot Daly started there last weekend but struggled after being met with a thunderous tackle by his opposite number Lukhanyo Am early on. Daly drops to the bench with Liam Williams left out of the 23 altogether.
As reported by the Guardian, Vunipola is selected at loosehead prop – Rory Sutherland drops to the bench – after an impressive showing last weekend as a replacement. Vunipola was initially left out of the 23 last week but was called in after an injury to Wyn Jones and seized his opportunity, making his impact felt at the scrum.
Dan Biggar has been named at fly-half but he continues to go through the head injury assessment return-to-play protocols and cannot resume contact training until Thursday at the earliest. He must also pass an assessment by an independent concussion consultant before being given the green light to play with Owen Farrell, again named on the bench, standing by.
“As always, 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.”
Elsewhere, Taulupe Faletau comes on to the bench with no place for Hamish Watson while the rest of the squad remains unchanged. That means Luke Cowan-Dickie and Tadhg Furlong continue in the front row, Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje stay as the locks and Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry and Jack Conan comprise the back row once more. Robbie Henshaw stays at inside-centre and Duhan van der Merwe, Anthony Watson and Stuart Hogg make up an unchanged back three.