Warburton picks his Lions XV for first Test vs South Africa

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Last Updated: 17/07/21 10:46pm

Sam Warburton captained the Lions on two tours

Sam Warburton captained the Lions on two tours

The Lions played their final warm-up game before the Test series against the world champion Springboks starts next weekend.

Following Wednesday’s loss to a Springbok heavy South Africa ‘A’ side, the Lions bounced back with a solid 49-3 win over the Stormers.

Plenty of players stuck up their hands for selection and the Lions coaches will have a tough decision to see who makes the starting XV to face South Africa.

Two-times Lions captain Sam Warburton gives his views on who should start for the Lions in Cape Town next Saturday.

The Pack

Sam Warburton's Lions forwards

Sam Warburton’s Lions forwards

“Mako Vunipola starts at loosehead, he is the most industrious loosehead we have. He has massive physicality and great ball-handling skills to allow the Lions play wide. He has massive experience and he is good in defence.”

“Luke Cowan Dickie, again is the most physical hooker we have got. He contributes brilliantly at set piece and in the loss. Tadhg Furlong is in at tighthead for me – I think he is everyone’s tighthead.

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“Maro Itoje has been great and I think Alun Wyn Jones comes straight back in to captain the team – I think that is what Warren Gatland will want.

“I did originally have Hamish Watson and Tom Curry in, but Tadhg Beirne proved to me that he should play six. He just contributes so much in the lineout, in the wide channel and his offloading game as well as the breakdown.

Highlights as the British and Irish Lions faced Stormers in their final warm-up of the South Africa tour

Sky Sports 5:01
Highlights as the British and Irish Lions faced Stormers in their final warm-up of the South Africa tour

Highlights as the British and Irish Lions faced Stormers in their final warm-up of the South Africa tour

“Taulupe Faletau is just phenomenal in the 50m channels when he gets space and his experience ast the base of the scrum will be crucial. Curry is the most physical No 7 we have got and has been brilliant. I think Watson will be phenomenal off the bench – he will be exactly the energy the Lions will need.

“I think this is a pack who can physically dominate SA.”

The Backs

Sam Warburton's Lions backs

Sam Warburton’s Lions backs

“In the backs, Conor Murray and Dan Biggar have probably played together the most. Murray’s kicking game has been good – I think on Wednesday [Against South Africa ‘A’] there was one kick that was not ideal.

“With Bundee Aki you need to have a slammer and a banger in centre somewhere. I don’t think Robbie Henshaw did quite enough on Saturday.

“I worked backwards with my centres because I have Josh Adams, Liam Williams and Anthony Watson at the back. If a Stuart Hogg was in there, then perhaps go with Chris Harris in the centre. But you need some creativity in the centre. Given that the Lions may have a 6-2 split on the bench [six forward and two backs], Elliot Daly’s creativity means he could cover the back three as well.

“If he does play at 13, it will be his fourth start there so I think he will be able to cope there.

“Watson and Williams are the best three players we have got aerially, they are safe hands under the box kicks that will come from the Springboks. Watson and Adams are lethal finishers and are very physical in the breakdown and in defence.”

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