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Robbie Henshaw and Marcus Smith
Henshaw and Smith start in a new-look 10-12 combination for the Lions
Date: Saturday, 17 July Kick-off: 17:00 BST Venue: Cape Town Stadium
Coverage: Live text commentary via the BBC Sport website and app

Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw returns from injury and Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones is named on the bench for the British and Irish Lions’ final match before the series against South Africa.

Fly-half Marcus Smith also starts at 10 against the Stormers on Saturday after only being called up at the weekend.

Second row Jones is set to return to action just three weeks after dislocating his shoulder against Japan.

He returned home but trained with Wales before heading back to South Africa.

Scotland’s Stuart Hogg returns after a period of self-isolation following an outbreak of Covid in the tourists’ camp to lead the side from full-back.

“For the matchday 23 it’s their last opportunity to stake a claim for a Test place, so I expect to see a highly motivated group of players,” said head coach Warren Gatland.

“The Test selection is probably fluid in terms of 60% – 70%.

“We have got some thoughts on where we are and we want to see some other players have another hit out this weekend and have a look at some combinations.

“There are a few guys who aren’t involved who we are pretty happy with, but it is still an opportunity for the side on Saturday to stake a claim.”

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British and Irish Lions: Hogg: Adams, Daly, Henshaw, Van der Merwe; Smith, Price, Sutherland, Cowan-Dickie, Furlong, Beard, Hill, Beirne, H Watson, Conan

Replacements: George, Vunipola, Fagerson, AW Jones, Simmonds, Davies, Harris, Rees-Zammit

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Jones given Test-fitness warning

Alun Wyn Jones
Jones arrived back with the rest of the Lions squad earlier on Thursday

Jones has arrived back on the Lions tour after coming through two training sessions with Wales, but Gatland says that the 35-year-old will have to prove himself on the pitch if he is to continue his run of having played in the last nine Lions tests – a streak that stretches across three tours and 12 years.

“We have had that conversation,” said Gatland, who reviewed footage of Jones’ training session with Wales.

“He has travelled today, but if he is in contention for next week he needs to have a run.

“If someone comes off he is ready to go. We wouldn’t have brought him out unless he was 100% fit.”

The Test series begins against the Springboks on 24 July.

‘Make a few people sit up and take notice’

Marcus Smith
Smith (far left) played in England’s wins over the United States and Canada earlier this month to get his first taste of Test rugby

Smith, 22, only won his first England cap earlier this month after being rewarded for a fine season in guiding Harlequins to an unlikely Premiership title win.

Having been called up as cover for the injured Finn Russell, he has been given licence to express himself by Gatland.

“The message to him is to enjoy the occasion, make the most of it and make a few people sit up and take notice,” said the Lions coach.

“There is no doubt he has some real attacking prowess and he has matured significantly.”

Smith is the only fully-fit specialist fly-half on the tour with Russell nursing an Achilles tear that may keep him out of the Test series and Dan Biggar managing a minor ankle injury.

Gatland insisted Biggar, who pulled out of the Wednesday’s defeat to a near full-strength South Africa A side, would have been available for selection had it been a Test. Hogg will step into the 10 role against the Stormers in the event of injury.

Waterboy Rassie irks Gatland

Rassie Erasmus
Rassie Erasmus (in black face mask) on the pitch in South Africa A’s win over the Lions on Wednesday

South Africa director of rugby Rassie Erasmus had wanted the Lions to play another South Africa A side drawn from his Test squad on the weekend rather than the Stormers provincial side.

However, the tourists have turned down his request and shrugged off Erasmus’ suggestion that fear might have been contributed to their decision.

“I don’t see it as our role to prepare them for the Test series,” said Gatland.

“I think he was just trying to wind us up, sometimes he is capable of doing.”

Gatland also noted Erasmus, who was pitchside in South Africa A’s win sporting a water carrier bib, seemed to have forgotten a key part of his role.

“He was the waterboy last night and running on the pitch, but the thing, if you are the waterboy, is you have to make sure you are carrying water!,” said Gatland.

“I didn’t understand what his role was! My advice would be to make sure he is carrying the water next time.”

Scotland flanker Hamish Watson revealed wing Louis Rees-Zammit’s new haircut – which features a lightning bolt shaved into the back of his head – was part-punishment and part-choice.

“It was a fine to shave the side of his head with a zero-grade fade, but then I think it was Zam himself who wanted the lightning bolt on it,” revealed Watson.

“It was done by [head of medical team] Prav [Mathema] who learned how to cut hair in lockdown, so it is actually pretty decent.”

Source: BBC

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