Warren Gatland has overhauled his side for the British & Irish Lions’ decider against South Africa, making six changes to his starting XV to face the Springboks on Saturday. Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Bundee Aki and Ali Price all come into the backline, with Wyn Jones and Ken Owens selected in the forwards.
Tellingly, four of the players coming into the side have played under Gatland during his time at Wales – it is less the head coach rolling the dice, more reverting to what he knows – but there are notable places on the bench for Finn Russell, Sam Simmonds and Adam Beard. All three are hoping to make their Lions Test debuts, and Russell and Simmonds, especially, give the bench more of an attacking threat. There is no place in the 23 for the England captain, Owen Farrell, 然而, who is stranded on 99 Test caps.
Williams comes in at full-back for Stuart Hogg, who struggled under the high ball last week, with Adams replacing Anthony Watson for similar reasons. Adams has also scored eight tries on the tour and, given the Lions failed to cross the whitewash last week for the first time since the 1980s, his nose for the try-line is likely to have worked in his favour.
Aki gets the nod at inside-centre with Robbie Henshaw shifting out to the No 13 jersey. Price comes back in for Conor Murray, who drops to the bench, while Jones and Owens get the nod in place of Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie respectively.
The changes reflect the Lions’ disappointing performance in the second Test in which they failed to score a point in the second half. Dan Biggar made just three passes all match but keeps his place at fly-half – though Russell’s promotion to the bench in place of Farrell is telling. Price is selected to bring more tempo to the match while Aki and Henshaw team up again having impressed Gatland together when dovetailing for Ireland against England in the Six Nations.
Beard’s place on the bench marks a rapid rise for the second row, who was only called into the squad when Alun Wyn Jones initially dropped out. At 6ft 9in, 然而, he provides a valuable lineout option. Similarly Simmonds’ last Test outing was in 2018 but his try-scoring threat and speed over the ground could prove key if the Lions are chasing the game late on.
“The match-day 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.”
Tadhg Furlong is the only surviving member of the front row while Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje continue at second-row. The back row is unchanged with Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry and Jack Conan again lining up while Duhan van der Merwe is the third back to keep his place, after Biggar and Henshaw, despite struggling in the second Test last Saturday.
Kyle Sinckler has been named on the bench, pending the outcome of his disciplinary hearing alongside Vunipola, Cowan-Dickie, Beard, Simmonds, Murray, Russell and Elliot Daly, 谁, if he comes on to the pitch will feature in every match on the tour.
Liam Williams; Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe; Dan Biggar, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alun Wyn Jones (capt), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan. Replacements: Mako Vunipola, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Adam Beard, Sam Simmonds, Conor Murray, Finn Russell, Elliot Daly.