Venue: BT Murrayfield
TV: Live coverage on Channel 4 in the UK
Is it a sop to the covid-restricted home crowd? Is it a way to get some of the Scots out of the way if they fail to perform or get injured before they even get on the plane? Or is it time to take off the tinfoil hat and realise that any front row with Zandbags and Suzz is just too tasty to ignore?
Warren Gatland has named the first Lions side for the match against Japan at BT Murrayfield and it feels oddly packed with Scots, while there are no England players in the starting XV – they are all keeping Ali Price company on the bench. There’s no word on whether it would be an official Lions test cap yet but pomp and ceremony aside, it makes a good opportunity for several of the Scottish contingent to lay down a marker.
It’s not wholly experimental. With Furlong on the bench it could be an early chance to see the potential test combo of Sutherland/Owens/Furlong in the front row, There is also the default/”money in the bank” half-back pairing of Murray and Biggar that will need strong tour performances from the likes of Ali Price or Finn Russell to work their way into the Test plans.
Otherwise a lot of it does feel like testing combinations, certainly elsewhere in the backs and the back row.
British and Irish Lions: Liam Williams, Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Duhan Van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Rory Sutherland, Ken Owens, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Alun-Wyn Jones (capt), Tadgh Beirne, Hamish Watson, Jack Conan
Replacements: Jamie George, Wyn Jones, Tadgh Furlong, Courtney Lawes, Toby Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson.