Farrell and Russell to spearhead Lions' new backline combination

Owen Farrell and Finn Russell form exciting backline combination for new-look British and Irish Lions in tour opener in Johannesburg – as Warren Gatland makes 14 changes and names Stuart Hogg as captain

  • Warren Gatland has named a much-changed Lions team to face Emirates Lions
  • Finn Russell and Owen Farrell are to form an exciting combination at 10 and 12 
  • Stuart Hogg has been named as captain of the new-look team for the weekend  
  • Head coach Gatland is keen to hand each of his players a starting opportunity 

Finn Russell and Owen Farrell will spearhead a new backline combination in the Lions’ opening tour fixture in Johannesburg.

Head coach Warren Gatland has made 14 changes to his starting XV that beat Japan, with Stuart Hogg taking over as captain for the weekend.

Gatland’s plan is to hand every player a starting opportunity in the provincial games. 

Owen Farrell (above) will spearhead a new backline combination for the Lions in Johannesburg

Winger Josh Adams is the only player to retain his place, with tour captain Conor Murray among the players rotated out of the team.

‘It’s good to have arrived in Johannesburg and get the Tour underway,’ said Gatland.

‘We had a pleasing win last week up in Edinburgh, but there’s still plenty we need to get right on Saturday.

Stuart Hogg has been named as captain, having joined up after Exeter’s defeat by Harlequins

‘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 at this Saturday – 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.’

Warren Gatland has made 14 changes overall and plans to hand every player an opportunity

Winger Louis Rees-Zammit, centre Chris Harris, lock Jonny Hill and flanker Hamish Watson will all make their Lions debuts against Gauteng’s Emirates Lions.

They will be marshalled by Scottish half-back pairing of Ali Price and Finn Russell, with Farrell drafted into the No 12 jersey.

Up front, Wyn Jones, Jamie George and Kyle Sinckler are all handed their first tour starts in the front-row.

Josh Adams (left) is the only man to retain his place in the team after the victory against Japan

Maro Itoje will partner Hill at lock, with Courtney Lawes move into the blindside flanker position.

Wales’ Toby Faletau will start at No 8 – meaning in-form Exeter Chief Sam Simmonds in primed to make his debut from the bench.

Fellow debutants Luke Cowan-Dickie, Zander Fagerson and Gareth Davies are also named among the replacements.

Lions XV to take on Emirates Lions

15. Stuart Hogg – captain (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783

14. Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales)

13. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland)

12. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780

11. Josh Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales) #836

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland) #835

9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842

2. Jamie George (Saracens, England) #819

3. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825

5. Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England)

6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826

7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland)

8. Taulupe Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales) #779


16. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England)

17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England) – Prop #787

18. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)

19. Iain Henderson (Ulster Rugby, Ireland) #808

20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England)

21. Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales)

22. Bundee Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland) #837

23. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822

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