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Gatland includes six Irish players in Lions' starting XV against Japan

Henshaw, Aki, Murray, Beirne, Henderson, and Conan all get a start.

Conor Murray and Tadhg Beirne both start.
Conor Murray and Tadhg Beirne both start.

WARREN GATLAND HAS named six Irish players in his Lions team to start Saturday’s clash with Japan in Edinburgh [KO 3pm, Channel 4].

Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Conor Murray, Iain Henderson, Tadhg Beirne, and Jack Conan will all start in the Lions’ first game of the 2021 campaign at Murrayfield, which will welcome 16,500 supporters. Tadhg Furlong has also been included on the bench.

Henshaw and Aki will team up in midfield, while Murray will partner Wales’ Dan Biggar in the halfbacks. 

Henderson will lock down with tour captain Alun Wyn Jones in the second row, while Beirne is at blindside flanker in a back row also including Conan at number eight and Scotland’s Hamish Watson at openside.

The back three is made up of fullback Liam Williams and wings Josh Adams and Duhan van der Merwe, while the front row sees Rory Sutherland, Ken Owens, and Zander Fagerson given starting chances this weekend.

The starting team doesn’t include any England internationals, although five of them only arrived at Lions camp yesterday due to their club commitments with Saracens and three more – as well as Scotland captain Stuart Hogg – remain on duty with Exeter, who play in the Premiership final this weekend.

Furlong is joined on the bench by Jamie George, Wyn Jones, Courtney Lawes, Taulupe Faletau, Ali Price, Owen Farrell, and Anthony Watson.

The Lions will fly out to South Africa on Sunday for their eight-game tour.

Lions (v Japan):

15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales)
14. Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales)
13. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster, Ireland)
12. Bundee Aki (Connacht, Ireland)
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh, Scotland)
10. Dan Biggar (Northampton, Wales)
9. Conor Murray (Munster, Ireland)

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1. Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh, Scotland)
2. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales)
3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow, Scotland)
4. Iain Henderson (Ulster, Ireland
5. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales) (captain)
6.Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland)
7. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh, Scotland)
8. Jack Conan (Leinster, Ireland)

Replacements:

16. Jamie George (Saracens, England)
17. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales)
18. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, Ireland)
19. Courtney Lawes (Northampton, England)
20. Taulupe Faletau (Bath, Wales)
21. Ali Price (Glasgow, Scotland)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England)
23. Anthony Watson (Bath, England)

Referee: Pascal Gaüzère [FFR].

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