Jamie George to captain British and Irish Lions vs Cell C Sharks on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld

July 09, 2021

Saracens and England hooker Jamie George will captain the British and Irish Lions in their rematch against the Sharks on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.

After two positive Covid-19 Tests in camp on Wednesday (one player, one staff) left the squad in disarray to prepare for the first fixture vs the Sharks, Friday saw a negative set of results returned to the Tour PCR screening programme, giving the game a firm green light.

The player who initially produced a positive on Wednesday has since tested negative twice, allowing all but one of the squad personnel who were isolating at the team hotel in Johannesburg to come into contention for selection once more.

The second fixture against the Durban-based Sharks replaces the scheduled tour match against the Bulls, who could not fulfil their place due to a Covid outbreak.

The side picked by Warren Gatland shows 13 changes to the one which faced the Sharks on Wednesday, with only Elliot Daly at centre and Duhan van der Merwe on the wing retained.

One player and three staff members remain in isolation at the team hotel as close contacts of the other unnamed member of staff who tested positive on Wednesday.

Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar were the intended half-backs for the first meeting until they were forced to quarantine but they start at Loftus Versfeld, while Anthony Watson makes his first start of the tour on the right wing.

All of the players who were withdrawn from the original 23 because of the initial two positive tests are present except full-back Stuart Hogg, who faced a late fitness check because of a dead leg.

"It's obviously been a slightly turbulent week, but we remain determined to keep rolling with the punches," said Gatland on Friday.

"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.

"The feeling in the camp on Wednesday night was just to give it a crack - I was really proud by how everyone reacted, particularly the matchday squad who would have never prepared for a game like that before.

"Saturday is another opportunity to see how the boys go and for us as coaches to try out a few more combinations ahead of the Test series.

"I have long been an admirer of Jamie's leadership skills, so I am delighted to name him skipper.

"We want to pass on thanks to the Sharks boys for fronting up and going again on Saturday. That's the spirit of rugby, and a great chance for them to have another shot at us."

British and Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Chris Harris, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies; 1 Rory Sutherland, 2 Jamie George (c), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 4 Maro Itoje, 5 Jonny Hill, 6 Tadhg Beirne, 7 Hamish Watson, 8 Jack Conan.

Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Tom Curry, 22 Conor Murray, 23 Finn Russell.

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