Lions team named: All seven Irish selected for early auditions against Japan

Warren Gatland has opted to use every one of his Irish contingent for Saturday's game against the Brave Blossoms in Murrayfield
Lions team named: All seven Irish selected for early auditions against Japan

Conor Murray

All seven of Ireland’s Lions will feature in the touring side’s opening game, against Japan in Murrayfield, this Saturday.

Tadhg Furlong will start the game against the Brave Blossoms on the bench but his national colleagues have been asked to pitch up from the off, meaning the Irish contingent has an early chance to shine on a tour where time and opportunities will be in short supply.

Robbie Henshaw and Bundee Aki will provide the midfield partnership, Conor Murray is in at scrum-half, Iain Henderson partners Alun Wyn Jones in the second row while Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan get the nod in the back row.

A heavy Irish influence had been expected given all seven were on board as of yesterday week when the first 25 players assembled in Jersey. Another eight clocked in this week with more again due after the Premiership final in five day’s time.

Murrayfield will welcome 16,500 fans for the game and head coach Warren Gatland heaped praise on a Japanese side that beat both Ireland and Scotland at the last World Cup but hasn’t played competitively since.

"We’re anticipating a tough game against Japan – a side that like to play at a high-tempo and shift the ball," said Gatland. “We saw throughout the World Cup they have attacking threats across the park and a solid defence and set piece.

"I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made during our training camp in Jersey so far, but we’ve a long way to go. You can see that the squad are starting to get to grips with our game strategies, but, as always with a Lions Tour, this takes time to bed in.

"We’re in a good place though and I can tell there’s a lot more to come from this group. Everyone in the squad will get a start before the start of the Test Series, so each member of the squad can put their hand up for Test selection.

The Lions’ eight-game Tour to South Africa kicks off on Saturday, July 3 when they play the Emirates Lions at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Three weeks later, Cape Town Stadium will host the opening Test match of the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series – the first Lions Test in the Mother City since 1997.

The British and Irish tourists then return to Gauteng and play the second and third Tests at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday July 31 and August 8 respectively.

British and Irish Lions (v Japan): L Williams (Scarlets, Wales); J Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales), R Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), B Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland), D van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland); D Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) C Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland); R Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland), K Owens (Scarlets, Wales), Z Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland); I Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland), AW Jones (Ospreys, Wales); T Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland), H Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland), J Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland).

Replacements: J George (Saracens, England), Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), T Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), C Lawes (Northampton Saints, England), T Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales), A Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Owen Farrell (Saracens, England), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England).

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