British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has named his first squad ahead of the 2021 tour of South Africa.
Before the team jet off to Johannesburg they first play Japan at Murrayfield in the 1888 Cup, the first time the Lions have played on home soil since they took on Argentina in 2005 at the Principality Stadium.
Following a week-long training camp in Jersey, Gatland has named captain Alun Wyn Jones in his starting XV to face the Brave Blossoms and will be partnered by Ireland lock Iain Henderson.
The front row consists of two Scotland props in Rory Sutherland and Zander Fagerson, split by Ken Owens at hooker.
Sutherland’s Edinburgh teammate Hamish Watson starts on the openside flanker and is joined by the Irish pair of Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan in the back row.
16,500 spectators will be in attendance for the match at the home of Scottish rugby, where Japan are set to feature in their first competitive match since their World Cup quarter-final against the Springboks.
In a team featuring eight Lions debutants, two will start on the wing in Wales’ Josh Adams and Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe. The experienced head of Liam Williams will anchor play from the back as he starts in the No.15 jersey.
An all-Ireland centre partnership of Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw will operate in the midfield, while Conor Murray and Dan Biggar are the half-backs for the match to be shown on Channel 4.
“We’re anticipating a tough game against Japan – a side that like 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.
“I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made during our training camp in Jersey so far, but we’ve a long way to go. You can see that the squad are starting to get to grips with our game strategies, but, as always with a Lions Tour, this takes time to bed in.
“We’re in a good place though and I can tell there’s a lot more to come from this group.
“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 sixteen thousand supporters in Edinburgh. I’m sure the crowd will give the players an enormous lift before we depart for South Africa on Sunday.”
British & Irish Lions team to play Japan at Murrayfield (June 26, 3pm kick-off)
15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821
9. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790
1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland) #808
5. Alun Wyn Jones – Captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761
6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland)
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)
- Jamie George (Saracens, England) #819
- Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales)
- Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818
- Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
- Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) #779
- Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
- Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780
- Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816