British and Irish Lions Tour 2021 fixtures in South Africa: Test match dates, kick-off times and latest news
The British & Irish Lions tour in South Africa is underway and after commanding victories over the Sigma Lions and Cell C Sharks (twice), the Lions were given a wake-up call with defeat against a strong South Africa A side.
However, they bounced back with a resounding win against the Stormers with the likes of Luke Cowan-Dickie and Sam Simmonds playing themselves into Test reckoning.
This tour has been shortened from 10 games to eight from the one in New Zealand in 2017, which means there are now no more warm-up matches before the Test series starts on Saturday, July 24.
Four weeks after dislocating his shoulder in an injury that appeared to have ended his tour, Jones will continue his sensational comeback by leading Warren Gatland’s side into their critical series opener.
It will be his 10th consecutive Test appearance for the Lions dating back to their last visit to South Africa in 2019.
In a bold team selection, Gatland has overlooked Lions pedigree and established national hierarchies to pick personnel who excelled during the warm-up schedule against modest provincial opposition.
Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and No 8 Jack Conan have beaten Jamie George and Toby Faletau to their respective positions, despite being less distinguished options. George and Faletau were the incumbents from the 2017 tour to New Zealand but cannot even secure places on the bench.
Gatland’s contrarian streak is even more evident in the backline chosen to take on the Springboks in the first of three Tests to be staged in Cape Town.
He has opted for the enterprise of Stuart Hogg at full-back, even if his selection does come with risks attached, rather than the benched Liam Williams, also a 2017 Test Lion.
Elliot Daly is picked at outside centre – his preferred position where he has only started once for England – to forge a midfield partnership with Robbie Henshaw, who starts despite only making one appearance since straining a hamstring last month.
Duhan Van Der Merwe has tormented defences all tour and is given the green light on the left wing, but there is no place in the 23 for prolific try-scorer Josh Adams, who has crossed eight times in South Africa.
And in another nod to events in the build-up to the Test series, Ali Price has edged Conor Murray at scrum-half as reward for his greater energy and dynamism in attack.
Gatland has picked a team to play with tempo and ambition in a clear indication that the Lions’ game-plan is to out-run the world champions, who have largely stuck to their tried and tested World Cup-winning XV.
Prop Mako Vunipola, a stalwart of four years ago, is vulnerable at the scrum and he is overlooked for the bench, while England captain Owen Farrell has to settle for a replacement role.