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Training ground incident rules Hamish Watson out of the Lions opener versus Japan

By Liam Heagney

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Scotland back-rower Hamish Watson will miss this Saturday’s eve-of-departure Lions match in Edinburgh against Japan following a midweek medical update from Warren Gatland’s squad at their Channel Islands base in Jersey. The 2021 Guinness Six Nations player of the championship had been chosen on Tuesday to start against the Japanese at Murrayfield in an XV that consisted of six Irish players, five Welsh and four Scots. 

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However, the loss of Watson and the inclusion of Justin Tipuric, who wasn’t chosen in the initial matchday 23, will now see the Scottish representation drop to three and the Welsh representation rise to six, the same as Ireland for a match where there is no starting English player for the Lions for the first time since 1950. 

A Lions media release on Wednesday afternoon read: “Hamish Watson (Edinburgh, Scotland) has been replaced by Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales) in the starting line-up for this Saturday’s clash with Japan at BT Murrayfield Stadium for The Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup. The Scottish loose forward suffered a concussion in training yesterday [Tuesday] and will begin the graduated return-to-play protocol.”

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Following on from the Six Nations there had been criticism of back-rower Watson, allegations that he would be too small to thrive against hulking type South African players when the Lions arrive in the southern hemisphere next week for their three-Test, eight-match adventure. However, Watson was backed in April by ex-Lions skipper Sam Warburton to thrive on tour.

Hamish Watson is never too small,” insisted successful 2013 and 2017 Lions skipper Warburton. “Josh Navidi has his critics for Wales, Justin Tipuric has probably had them over his career. I said this on Twitter recently, power trumps size every day of the week. I played against plenty of big guys who were slugs, but it’s that repeated power is what you need and Warren Gatland would have been purring watching Hamish Watson over the Six Nations. I thought he was outstanding.”

REVISED LIONS XV (vs Japan, Saturday)
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. Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales) – Back row #786
8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland)

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Replacements:
16. Jamie George (Saracens, England) #819
17. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales)
18. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818
19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826
20. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) #779
21. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780
23. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816

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Training ground incident rules Hamish Watson out of the Lions opener versus Japan

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