Conor Murray to start as Lions look to seal series win in South Africa

The Munster and Ireland scrum-half had to settle for a place on the bench in last Saturday’s 22-17 victory as Ali Price was handed the number nine jersey
Conor Murray to start as Lions look to seal series win in South Africa

Conor Murray: Handed a start for the second Test. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

Conor Murray will start for the British & Irish Lions in Saturday’s second Test against South Africa as Warren Gatland bids to secure a series victory at Cape Town Stadium.

The Munster and Ireland scrum-half had to settle for a place on the bench in last Saturday’s 22-17 victory as Ali Price was handed the number nine jersey he had worn with distinction in all three Tests against New Zealand in 2017 but his strong finishing role last weekend as the Lions secured a 1-0 lead in the series has earned him a start as one of three changes from the XV head coach Gatland selected a week ago.

Murray, 32, will earn his fourth Test start for the Lions and make his eighth Test appearance for the tourists having twice come off the bench in 2013, while Scotland’s Price is retained in the matchday squad named on Tuesday morning as a replacement.

Chris Harris is selected at outside centre in a midfield partnership with Robbie Henshaw as Elliot Daly moves to the bench as outside-back cover while the other change sees Mako Vunipola start at loosehead prop with Wyn Jones not recovered from a shoulder injury while last week’s starter Rory Sutherland takes his place among the replacements.

Vunipola, like Murray, was part of an impactful bench in last Saturday’s second half as the Lions turned around a 12-3 half-time deficit, the Saracens loosehead winning a scrum penalty against the Springboks’ renowned Bomb Squad of replacement front-rowers.

“As always, selection was incredibly tough,” Gatland said. “However, we’ve made the changes we think are the right calls for the weekend’s game."

Captain Alun Wyn Jones earns his 11th consecutive Lions Test cap and is named in the second row alongside last Saturday’s Player of the Match Maro Itoje while Vunipola packs down with hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and Ireland tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong in the front row.

There is an unchanged back row of Courtney Lawes at blindside flanker, Tom Curry on the open side, and Jack Conan at No.8, completing an Irish quartet of Test starters with back-five forward Tadhg Beirne keeping his place on the bench.

Courtney Lawes is tackled by Eben Etzebeth of South Africa during the first Test. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Courtney Lawes is tackled by Eben Etzebeth of South Africa during the first Test. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

And in the backline, Murray will be partnered in the half-backs by Dan Biggar, who is named at fly-half subject to the Welshman completing the return-to-play protocol and assessment by an independent concussion consultant having failed a Head Injury Assessment in the second half of last Saturday’s victory.

The back three of Anthony Watson, Duhan van der Merwe and full-back Stuart Hogg remains the same while there is one further change to the bench where 2013 and 2017 Test veteran Taulupe Faletau replaces Hamish Watson as back-row cover.

Gatland described this Saturday’s game as the biggest of the tour, with the Springboks needing a win to keep the series alive.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland talks with the team during the Captain's Run. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
Lions head coach Warren Gatland talks with the team during the Captain's Run. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

“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.”

Meanwhile, South Africa have made three changes including a full debut for Leicester number eight Jasper Wiese.

Head coach Jacques Nienaber has reacted to the 22-17 defeat last Saturday by replacing the ineffectual Kwagga Smith with Wiese, who came on as a replacement against Georgia on July 2.

And there are two adjustments to the front row with only hooker Bongi Mbonambi surviving as the Springboks give starts to props Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe.

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: S Hogg (Scotland); A Watson (England), C Harris (Scotland), R Henshaw (Ireland), D van der Merwe (Scotland); D Biggar (Wales), C Murray (Ireland); M Vunipola (England), L Cowan-Dickie (England), T Furlong (Ireland); M Itoje (England), A W Jones (Wales)– captain; C Lawes (England), T Curry (England), J Conan (Ireland).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), R Sutherland (Scotland), K Sinckler (England), T Beirne (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales), A Price (Scotland), O Farrell (England), E Daly (England).

SOUTH AFRICA: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am , Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk; Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi; Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

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