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Conan, Furlong and Beirne start in much-changed Lions XV against Sharks

The game will go ahead after the Lions squad returned negative PCR test results.

Conan and Furlong both start.
Conan and Furlong both start.

LIONS BOSS WARREN Gatland has named Ireland’s Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong, and Tadhg Beirne in his much-changed team for tomorrow’s rematch with the Sharks in Pretoria [KO 5pm Irish time, Sky Sports].

The tourists have reported that the Lions player who tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday has returned negative results in further PCR testing yesterday and today, meaning that player and his eight close contacts are free to play tomorrow. 

The member of Lions management who also tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday had further positive results yesterday and today, meaning they remain in isolation, as do their four close contacts – including one Lions player. Earlier this week, it was deemed that two players were close contacts of that member of management but a review has cleared one of them of that status.

Today’s PCR testing of the Lions squad returned a negative set of results.

Tour captain Conor Murray, Liam Williams, Anthony Watson, Dan Biggar, Gareth Davies, Chris Harris, and Tadhg Beirne all return to the Lions’ matchday 23 for tomorrow’s meeting with the Sharks, having been withdrawn at a late stage before Wednesday’s big win over the same opposition.

However, Stuart Hogg – who was also withdrawn from Wednesday’s game – has not returned to the matchday 23.

Gatland has named England hooker Jamie George as his captain for tomorrow’s game, while the team features wing Duhan van der Merwe and outside centre Elliot Daly, who both started against the Sharks on Wednesday and will now back up tomorrow.

Beirne starts at blindside flanker for the second time for the Lions, Conan is at number eight, and Furlong returns at tighthead prop. Murray is included on the bench.

“It’s obviously been a slightly turbulent week, but we remain determined to keep rolling with the punches,” said Gatland. “In many ways, the challenges we’ve faced this week have strengthened our resolve to do everything we can to overcome the challenges created by Covid.”

Meanwhile, the Sharks have made wholesale changes to their team, with experienced out-half Lionel Cronjé starting after returning from Japan.

Lions:

15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales)
14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England)
13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) 
12. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby, Scotland)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester, Scotland) 
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton, Wales)
9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales)

1. Rory Sutherland (Worcester, Scotland) 
2. Jamie George (Saracens, England) (captain)
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, Ireland)
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England)
5. Jonny Hill (Exeter, England) 
6. Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland) 
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh, Scotland) 
8. Jack Conan (Leinster, Ireland) 

Replacements:

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16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) 
17. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) 
18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol, England)
19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton, England)
20. Sam Simmonds (Exeter, England)
21. Tom Curry (Sale, England)
22. Conor Murray (Munster, Ireland)
23. Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland)

Sharks:

15. Anthony Volmink
14. Marnus Potgieter
13. Werner Kok
12. Murray Koster
11. Thaakir Abrahams
10. Lionel Cronje
9. Jaden Hendrikse

1. Nthuthuko Mchunu
2. Kerron van Vuuren
3. Wiehahn Herbst
4. Le Roux Roets
5. Reniel Hugo
6. Dylan Richardson
7. Mpilo Gumede
8. Phepsi Buthelezi (captain)

Replacements:

16. Dan Jooste
17. MJ Majola
18. Khutha Mchunu
19. Thembelani Bholi
20. Jeandre Labuschagne
21. Cameron Wright
22. Boeta Chamberlain
23. Jeremy Ward
24. Lourens Adriaanse
25. Rynhardt Jonker
26. Curwin Bosch.

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