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Gatland makes 6 changes to his Lions XV for the third Test finale

By Liam Heagney

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Warren Gatland has made six changes to his starting team as the Lions look to clinch their Test series versus the Springboks in next Saturday’s deciding third Test in Cape Town. The Kiwi’s charges came unstuck in last weekend’s second Test, surrendering a 9-6 interval lead to lose 9-27 after they were held scoreless in the second half. 

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This has now resulted in Gatland taking remedial action similar to what happened in 2013 when he made six changes to his starting Lions team to face the Wallabies in that series decider after the opportunity to clinch the series with a game to spare wasn’t taken in Melbourne. 

Half the starting pack was changed for that decider eight years ago, along with the infamous decision to axe veteran Lions midfielder Brian O’Driscoll and also make a change at scrum-half. This time around, though, Gatland has made four changes to his backline, with just two alterations in his pack. 

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Graham Henry on how the Lions must play to win their series versus the Springboks

Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Bundee Aki and Ali Price are all included at the expense of Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Chris Harris and Conor Murray, with Robbie Henshaw repositioned to No13 from inside centre, while in the pack Wyn Jones and Ken Owens take over from Mako Vunipola and Luke Cowan-Dickie. 

It means that Wales, the 2021 Guinness Six Nations champions, now provide the biggest Test team representation with six players compared to Ireland’s four, England’s three and Scotland’s two. The contrasting second Test breakdown was England six, Ireland four, Scotland three and Wales two.     

On the bench, Adam Beard, Finn Russell and Sam Simmonds feature for the first time in the Test series and will all win their first Lions cap should they take the field. Kyle Sinckler is also included having had his biting allegation dismissed at a disciplinary hearing. Rory Sutherland, Tadhg Beirne, Taulupe Faletau and Owen Farrell, used as replacements in last Saturday’s defeat, drop out of the matchday 23.   

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“The matchday 23 have an incredibly special opportunity in front of them, to seal a Lions series victory in South Africa,” said Gatland. “It doesn’t get much bigger than this and we are excited by the challenge that faces us on Saturday. We have no excuses from last week, the Springboks put us under pressure in the second half and deserved the win. We have to be much better than that second-half performance and I believe we will be.”

LIONS (vs South Africa, third Test, Saturday)
15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) #836
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) #837
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821
9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843
1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842     
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829     
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818  
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825
5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761
6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839

Replacements:
16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) #787
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814
19. Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales) #852
20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England) #849
21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790
22. Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) #835
23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822

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Gatland makes 6 changes to his Lions XV for the third Test finale

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