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British & Irish Lions

Hogg to lead Lions in tour opener

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Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) will captain The British & Irish Lions in the opening match of the 2021 Castle Lager Lions Series when the tourists take on the Lions this Saturday (kick-off 5pm BST, live on Sky Sports). 

The Scottish full back will lead an all-new starting XV to the one that defeated Japan 28-10 in Edinburgh last weekend to win The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup, save for Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) who retains his place on the left wing.

Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh, Scotland) and Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England) are all set to make their Lions debuts at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, in the first of eight Tour games to be shown live and exclusively on Sky Sports (Main Event and Action from 4pm BST).

Replacements Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England) and Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales) are also in line to make their first appearances in the famous red jersey should they join the fray on Saturday.

“It’s good to have arrived in Johannesburg and get the Tour underway,” said Lions Head coach, Warren Gatland.

“We had a pleasing win last week up in Edinburgh, but there’s still plenty we need to get right on Saturday.

“I’ve been encouraged by the way the boys have trained this week. I feel it’s gone up a level from where we were in Jersey and we’re starting to see a better understanding of some of our tactics.

“There’s some new player combinations for us to have a look at this Saturday – which is good information for us as the Test Series approaches.

“My congratulations to all those playing their first game as a Lion, and also to Hoggy too – who I am sure will lead the side by example.”

LIONS v THE BRITISH & IRISH LIONS

15, Stuart Hogg – captain (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783

14. Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales)

13. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland)

12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780

11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) #836

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) #835

9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842

2. Jamie George (Saracens, England) #819

3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825

5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England)

6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826

7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)

8. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) #779

Replacements:

16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England)

17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) – Prop #787

18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)

19. Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland) #808

20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England)

21. Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales)

22. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) #837

23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822

Saturday 3 July 2021

Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

Kick-off: 5pm (BST)

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British & Irish Lions

Lions team to face Springboks for first Test

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Photo by Dan Sheridan - Pool/Getty Images

Tour captain Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales) will skipper the Lions having recovered from a dislocated shoulder sustained in the tourists 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield Stadium just 24 days ago.

In doing so, the Welsh lock will win his tenth-successive Test cap for the Lions in Cape Town, moving him into an illustrious list of Lions legends to have made 10 Test appearances or more, including Gareth Edwards (10), Graham Price (12), Mike Gibson (12) Dickie Jeeps (13) and Willie-John McBride (17). Jones is the first however to play 10 Tests for the famous touring side in the professional era.

The iconic Welshman will be joined in the second row by Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) who claims his fourth successive Lions Test cap.

Elsewhere, Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) and Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) make up the front row.

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) packs down on the blind side flank to win his third Lions test appearance, having won his previous two from the bench in the second and third Tests in New Zealand in 2017. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) is named on the open side, with Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) filling the No.8 shirt.

After impressing against the DHL Stormers last Saturday, scrum-half Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) joins No.10 Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) in the half back berths.

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), who made his comeback from a hamstring injury last weekend, partners Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) in midfield.

Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) wins his fourth Lions Test cap as he takes his spot on the wing opposite Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), with fellow Scot, Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland), rounding off the side at fullback.

The starting XV includes three Scots for the first time since the 1997 Tour to South Africa when current Lions assistant coach, Gregor Townsend, was named alongside Alan Tait and Tom Smith for the first and second Tests.

“In my four Tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in,” said Gatland.

“We couldn’t have asked for more from the players so far; they’ve all put their hands up and made picking a starting XV incredibly difficult. In truth, we would have been happy with any number of different combinations across the 23, however, we’re very pleased with the side we’ve settled on.

“We know what we’re coming up against on Saturday. It’s going to be an arm wrestle, there’s no doubt about it. We’ll need to front up physically and be ready to go from the first whistle. When we played SA ‘A’ last week we probably took a bit too long to get into the game, something we can’t afford to do that again this weekend.

“We need to make sure we play in the right areas of the field, not give them easy territory and take our chances when they come.

“While the stands will be empty in Cape Town Stadium, we know Lions fans from across the home nations will be cheering us on back home. We’ll do our best to get the win.”

The much-anticipated clash against the reigning World Champions is the first of three Tests matches in the Castle Lager Lions Series to be shown live and exclusively on Sky Sports

SOUTH AFRICA v THE BRITISH & IRISH LIONS

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783

14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816

13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822

12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824

11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841

10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821

9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842

2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851

3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825

5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761

6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826

7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853

8.Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839

Replacements:

16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829

17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #840

18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814

19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838

20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) #847

21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790

22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780

23. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833

Saturday 24 July 2021

Cape Town Stadium, Cape Town

Kick-off: 5pm (BST)

Source – British & Irish Lions

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6 Nations

World Rugby applies 50/22 law trial globally, bolster concussion protocol

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World Rugby announced on Wednesday five law trials which will start next month, including a so-called “50/22” kicking adaptation.

The 50/22 change allows a team to gain a throw-in inside the opposition’s 22-metre area by kicking the ball to touch with at least one bounce from their own half.

The rule was used in recent Super Rugby tournaments and its primary intention is to “encourage the defensive team to put more players in the backfield, thereby creating more attacking space and reducing defensive line speed”, according to the sport’s governing body.

The other laws to come into force on a temporary basis from August 1 include a goal-line drop-out if the ball is held up in the in-goal area, if there is a knock-on from an attacking player in the same area or an attacking kick is grounded by the defenders in their own in-goal.

There are also restrictions on attacking players latching onto team-mates from a ruck and clean-outs which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs at the breakdown.

Michael Hooper with a textbook tackle close out a certain try

The final trial allows for a one-player latch before contact, but the individual must “observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet”.

World Rugby has also moved to strengthen concussion protocols, with independent specialists set to review cases when Test players return to action after a head injury.

They will launch a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants (ICCs) to provide expert opinion on whether players are ready to return to action after head knocks.

The global governing body will fully fund the process for Test-level competitions, with ICCs asked to rule when players look to return to action 10 days or fewer after a concussion or on players deemed higher risk due to previous head-injury history.

Source – Australia Rugby

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British & Irish Lions

Lions Rugby statement ahead of Sharks fixture

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Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The British & Irish Lions can confirm that a member of its management team has tested positive for COVID-19 following a lateral flow test as part of the Tour screening programme which took place on Wednesday 7 July. 

The individual and four close contacts – including two players and two members of staff – are being isolated and assessed at the team hotel. All members of the touring party have since been PCR tested.

This evening’s game against the Cell C Sharks at Emirates Airline Park will still take place provided the subsequent round of PCR testing returns negative results later this afternoon. Should this be the case, the kick-off time for tonight’s game will be adjusted to 8pm (SAST) / 7pm (BST).

“We have followed all necessary precautions since the start of the Tour, which included regular testing and rigorous COVID-19 counter measure planning and protocols,” said Ben Calveley, Managing Director for the British & Irish Lions.

“Our priority is to ensure the health and safety of the entire touring party, which is why we quickly isolated the players and staff upon receiving the news of the positive result.

“Everyone has subsequently been lateral flow and PCR tested. The Medical Advisory Group await the results of the PCR testing in order to make a decision on tonight’s game.

“The five individuals effected will be monitored closely during isolation and receive the bestlions possible medical attention as we await the results of their PCR tests.

“Further updates will follow in due course.”

Source – British & Irish Lions

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