Lions 2021: Alun Wyn Jones completes miracle recovery as Wales star starts first Test against South Africa

STUART HOGG ends eight years of hurt by making his Lions Test debut against world champions South Africa.

And Alun Wyn Jones leads the shock starting XV into battle after a miracle recovery from a dislocated shoulder in just 20 days.

Boss Warren Gatland showed his hand 24 hours earlier than planned — and has benched England captain Owen Farrell and stand-in skipper Conor Murray.

There is no place for experienced tourists Toby Faletau, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola or Iain Henderson.

The tour’s top scorer, Josh Adams, is also missing.

Hogg, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Ali Price, Wyn Jones, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tom Curry, Courtney Lawes and Jack Conan are nine guys winning first starts.

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

“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 South Africa ‘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.”

Scotland captain Hogg has already missed three Lions games after isolating in Johannesburg.

The full-back, 29, is on his third tour but has NEVER played a Test after being stuck behind man-of-the-series Leigh Halfpenny in 2013 and then being sent home with a fractured cheekbone in 2017 after a freak clash with Murray.

Hogg said: “I don’t want this to be a sob story because I’ve missed out on the two previous tours but it’s something I have really worked hard towards for a long time.


“These are the games that everyone wants to be involved in. It would mean the absolute world to me to be involved on Saturday.

“This is just massive. Massive. In 2013, I can’t complain about not being involved — I was sitting behind Leigh Halfpenny and I learnt a hell of a lot.

“In 2017, I felt I was playing some nice rugby ahead of it and to have it taken away was bitterly disappointing. But that is all in the past and I can’t change anything.

“I just have to suck it up and get on with it — but it has made me hungrier to try to get back and represent the Lions.”

The return of Lion king Jones is also a seismic boost.

Second row Jones, 35, was left at home and told his tour was over just three weeks ago when his left shoulder popped out of its socket against Japan in Edinburgh.


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And Hogg added: “It just instils a huge amount of confidence to have a guy like that back.

“He’s taken a little bit of stick about the fact he’s like Lazarus and came back — but just to have a guy like him back in the camp is tremendous.”

Last night the South African Rugby Union confirmed all three Tests will be played in Cape Town.

  • LIONS: Hogg, Watson, Daly, Henshaw, Van der Merwe, Biggar, Price, Jones, Cowan-Dickie, Furlong, Jones (c), Itoje, Lawes, Curry, Conan. Subs: Owens, Sutherland, Sinckler, Beirne, Watson, Murray, Farrell, Williams.


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