Stuart Hogg will captain the British & Irish Lions for the first time when the touring team play their opening provincial fixture on South African soil against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Finn Russell, Hogg’s fellow Scot, has also been handed a first start in the No 10 jersey with Owen Farrell selected at inside centre in a 23-man squad that contains one survivor – Wales’s Josh Adams – in the starting lineup for Saturday’s 28-10 warm-up win over Japan at Murrayfield.
It completes a rollercoaster fortnight for Hogg who was dropped to the bench by Exeter for the closing knockout stages of the Premiership campaign. Warraen Gatland has, however, plumped for the Scotland captain to lead the team ahead of Farrell and Maro Itoje.
The game at Ellis Park will also be a significant one for Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris and Jonny Hill, all of whom will be making their Lions debuts. Replacements Luke Cowan-Dickie, Zander Fagerson, Sam Simmonds and Gareth Davies are also in line to make their first appearances off the bench.
“It’s good to have arrived in Johannesburg and get the tour under way,” said the head coach. “We had a pleasing win last week in Edinburgh, but there’s still plenty we need to get right on Saturday. I’ve been encouraged by the way the boys have trained this week. I feel it’s gone up a level from where we were in Jersey and we’re starting to see a better understanding of some of our tactics.
“There’s some new player combinations for us to have a look, which is good information for us as the Test series approaches. My congratulations to all those playing their first game as a Lion, and also to Hoggy too, who I am sure will lead the side by example.”
British & Irish Lions (v Lions) S Hogg (capt); L Rees-Zammit, C Harris, O Farrell, J Adams; F Russell, A Price; W Jones, J George, K Sinckler, M Itoje, J Hill, C Lawes, H Watson, T Faletau. Replacements L Cowan-Dickie, M Vunipola, Z Fagerson, I Henderson, S Simmonds, G Davies, B Aki, E Daly.