Gatland has had to shuffle his pack late after Hamish Watson and Zander Fagerson both sustained late concussion and back spasm injuries respectively. Justin Tipuric and Tadgh Furlong are the replacements in a team that is not short on potential Test team flavour. Murray and Biggar are many people’s first choices, as are Henshaw, Adams, Owens, Beirne and of course Captain Alun Wyn Jones. Winger Duhan van der Merwe makes his Lions debut in front of his home crowd alongside team-mate and 2021 Six Nations revelation Rory Sutherland.
More than anything, the Lions team today demonstrates that whatever the chopping and changing, the options are always top drawer.
Japan have not played international rugby since 2019, but their team contains ten who started that year’s Rugby World Cup quarter final. Star flanker Kazuki Himeno arrived very recently on a flight from New Zealand after turning out for Crusaders and probably thinks it’s still Friday. Look out for him off the bench.
British & Irish Lions: Liam Williams; Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Duhan van der Merwe; Dan Biggar, Conor Murray; Rory Sutherland, Ken Owens, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Alun Wyn Jones (captain), Tadhg Beirne, Justin Tipuric, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Jamie George, Wyn Jones, Kyle Sinckler, Courtney Lawes, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Anthony Watson.
Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka; Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita; Yu Tamura, Kaito Shigeno; Keita Inagaki, Atsushi Sakate, Ji-won Koo, Wimpie van der Walt, James Moore, Michael Leitch (captain), Lappies Labuschagne, Amanaki Mafi.
Replacements: Kosuke Horikoshi, Craig Millar, Asaeli Ai Valu, Jack Cornelsen, Kazuki Himeno, Tevita Tatafu, Naoto Saito, Rikiya Matsuda.