British and Irish Lions forced into change hours before first South Africa Test
British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has been forced into a last-minute change for Saturday’s first Test against South Africa after Wyn Jones was forced out of action.
The Scarlets and Wales prop suffered a shoulder injury when the Lions lost 17-13 to South Africa ‘A’ 10 days ago but was due to start at Cape Town Stadium.
However, the knock has since resurfaced and means Scotland’s Rory Sutherland takes his spot in the XV, while England star Mako Vunipola replaces him on the bench.
Former Wales coach Gatland expressed sympathy for Jones after news broke that he was ruled out of the opening Test: “It’s really bad luck for Wyn and we all feel for him missing out on tonight’s game.
“However, we’re confident he’ll be back in training next week and have no plans to bring in anyone else at this stage.”
Competition for places was close across the park, although Jones earned his selection at loosehead after appearing in four of the team's six warm-up fixtures (twice as a starter).
Scotland star Sutherland is a fine replacement, however, having himself started three warm-up fixtures in recent weeks.
The change means captain Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar are the only Welshman remaining in Saturday's side, making Gatland's former team the least represented in the XV.
Scotland, meanwhile, will now make up a quarter of the line-up, with Ali Price, Stuart Hogg and South Africa-born Duhan van der Merwe already among the selection.
It represents quite the turnaround for Scottish rugby considering they had only five players present in the squad that toured New Zealand four years ago.
South Africa may feel some satisfaction knowing their guests have been forced to alter plans so close to kick-off, although the change could also effect the hosts' approach.
Edinburgh loosehead Sutherland—who will join Worcester Warriors ahead of next season—has been a key player in Scotland's scrum of late, while Vunipola brings six Lions caps onto the bench.
More to follow.
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