Lions Test team almost finalised after ‘robust’ discussion

The British & Irish Lions team for Saturday’s first Test against South Africa is almost finalised, defence coach Steve Tandy said during an online news conference on Monday.

Kolisi doubt: Who should lead the Springboks?

Following “robust discussions”, which allegedly lasted almost two hours, the Lions coaches have all but finalised their match-day 23. This follows comments by Warren Gatland last week that only 40% of the team had been decided by Saturday.

“There’s one or two things to firm up but the majority has probably been done.”

Although Tandy did not drop any hints about who was likely to be in the Test team, he responded to questions over the return to the squad of tour captain Alun Wyn Jones by saying: “I haven’t seen anyone like him being that professional – he’s pretty unique.”

The Lions team will be announced on Thursday, a day after the Springboks are due to name their team for the first of three Tests. Tandy said that the enormity of the occasion was not lost upon the tourists.

“The opening match is massive. You get that feeling in the group now how big it is. You all want to get off on the front foot and hopefully take a lead in the series.

“I believe the competition [for places] is putting us in a real good spot going forward. At some point during the series there are going to be a few changes, there are going to be injuries, so we have got to be ready.”

Tandy said that although the Springboks had only played one Test since winning the World Cup in 2019, a 40-9 victory over Georgia on 2 July, the Lions had to “expect the unexpected”.

“You look at the Georgia game and the A team game against us [last Wednesday] and there are definitely things that are consistent from the World Cup. They are a super-talented group.”

The Springboks will have their own selection headaches as it remains unclear whether certain key players, including captain Siya Kolisi, will be fit to start on Saturday.

© Agence France-Presse