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No England players in Gatland's starting line-up for opening Lions match against Japan

BY Stephen Brunsdon  ·  Tuesday Jun 22, 2021

Warren Gatland has included just four English players on the bench as part of the British and Irish Lions squad to face Japan this weekend at Murrayfield.

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The Lions will play a warm-up on home soil for the first time since 2005, where they drew with Argentina in Cardiff, with Gatland picking six Irish players, five Welsh and four Scottish in the starting XV for the game in Edinburgh, which will be held in front of 16,500 spectators.

The four English players on the bench are: Jamie George, Owen Farrell (both of whom arrived into the larger training squad in Jersey following the Championship play-off against Ealing, Anthony Watson and Courtney Lawes.

Gatland says his selection was decided with the fast-paced, unstructured nature of the game Japan is expected to bring to the opening encounter, presumably with the English figures on the bench playing a bigger, controlling role once they come on.

“We’re anticipating a tough game against Japan – a side that likes to play at a high-tempo and shift the ball,” said Gatland. “We saw throughout the World Cup they have attacking threats across the park and a solid defence and set-piece.”

In the squad itself, there are Lions debuts for Josh Adams, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe, Rory Sutherland, Zander Fagerson, Tadgh Beirne, Hamish Watson and Jack Conan.

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On the bench is where the experience will likely come, as just Wyn Jones and Ali Price without any previous Lions starts.

Although the lack of English presence in the starting XV will inevitably leave some questioning Gatland’s selection process, the Kiwi coach says that there will be opportunities for each member of the squad to make their impression before the test matches begin.

“Everyone in the squad will get a start before the start of the Test series, so each member of the squad can put their hand up for Test selection. We are absolutely delighted to be playing in front of 16,500 supporters in Edinburgh. I’m sure the crowd will give the players an enormous lift before we depart for South Africa on Sunday.”

The British and Irish Lions starting XV to face Japan at Murrayfield on Saturday

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15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales)
9. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland)
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales)
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland)
5. Alun Wyn Jones – Captain (Ospreys, Wales)
6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland)
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)

Replacements:
16. Jamie George (Saracens, England)
17. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales)
18. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)
19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England)
20. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales)
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England)
23. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England)

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