Warren Gatland makes sweeping changes to British Lions team for decider against Springboks
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British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has made sweeping changes to the starting lineup that lost heavily to the Springboks last week as he looks for a new formula to win the series decider in Cape Town on Saturday.
As expected, Gatland has revamped the back three that could not cope with the aerial assault from the Springboks in the 27-9 defeat of the tourists and there are four changes in all to the backline and two more to the front row, with the second row and loose trio remaining unchanged.
Gone are fullback Stuart Hogg, who dropped three high balls in the second Test, and right wing Anthony Watson, who was similarly butter-fingered.
Respectively, they are replaced by Welshmen in Liam Williams, who was controversially left out in the first place, and the tour’s leading try-scorer, Josh Adam.
Duhan van der Merwe keeps his place on the left wing.
Bundee Aki comes in at inside centre with his fellow Irishman Robbie Henshaw moving across to 13, with Elliot Daly dropping to the bench.
Dan Biggar is retained at fly-half with Ali Price promoted at the expense of Conor Murray.
In the pack, there are two changes to the front-row with injury-free Wyn Jones taking his place on the loosehead to make his Lions Test debut alongside fellow Welshman Ken Owens, who is promoted from the bench to start his first Test of the tour at hooker. Ireland’s Tadhg Furlong continues on the tighthead to win his sixth-successive Test cap.
On the bench, Adam Beard, Finn Russell, and Sam Simmonds feature for the first time in the Test series Kyle Sinckler is included subject to the outcome of a disciplinary hearing.
“The matchday 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.”
British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Ali Price, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Courtney Lawes, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (Captain), 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones
Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Adam Beard, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Elliot Daly