Zander Fagerson and Duhan van der Merwe to start for Lions with Stuart Hogg covering at stand-off

Zander Fagerson will make his first start for the British and Irish Lions on Wednesday when they take on Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg.

Zander Fagerson, centre, will start for the British & Irish Lions against Sharks after coming off the bench against the Sigma Lions at the weekend. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images
Zander Fagerson, centre, will start for the British & Irish Lions against Sharks after coming off the bench against the Sigma Lions at the weekend. Picture: David Rogers/Getty Images

He is one of two Scotland internationals in the starting XV as the tourists seek to build on their impressive 56-14 win over Sigma Lions in the opening match at the weekend.

Winger Duhan van der Merwe joins Fagerson in the side and there are places on the bench for fellow Scots Rory Sutherland, Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris.

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Fagerson, the tighthead prop, was selected for last month’s send-off game against Japan in Edinburgh but had to withdraw after suffering a back spasm in the build-up. He recovered in time to make his Lions debut as a second-half substitute against Sigma Lions.

Duhan van der Merwe in action for the Lions against Japan at BT Murrayfield. Picture: Ross Parker/SNS

Van der Merwe returns to the side after scoring a try against the Japanese at Murrayfield.

Dan Biggar is picked at stand-off, with Finn Russell dropping out of the squad. There is no fly-half on the bench, so Hogg looks to be in line to cover at 10, a position he played for the Lions during the tour of Australia in 2013.

Ireland’s Iain Henderson will lead the team from the second row against the Sharks and becomes the third player to captain the side after Alun Wyn Jones and Hogg took charge against Japan and the Sigma Lions.

Warren Gatland, the head coach, has stuck to his policy of ensuring all squad members will start at least one of the first three games and Tom Curry (England), Josh Navidi (Wales) and Adam Beard (Wales) will all make their Lions debuts,

Curry and his back-row colleagues have been instructed to take the game to the Sharks. The explosive England forward is the only member of the original squad selected by Gatland not to have been involved in the wins against Japan and the Sigma Lions after he came into camp with a pectoral injury sustained on club duty for Sale.

He will make his first appearance of the tour at openside flanker and forms a dynamic loose trio alongside Sam Simmonds and Navidi.

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Simmonds will be hoping to make his mark at No 8 after being persistently overlooked by England coach Eddie Jones since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018, while late call-up Navidi excels on both sides of the ball.

“There’s a huge amount of competition in the back row,” Gatland said after Scotland flanker Hamish Watson was named man of the match at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.

“I spoke to them all on Sunday night and said ‘look, you’ve got a license from me to go and get your hands on the ball and express yourselves’.

“I said ‘you’re probably not renowned as lineout experts but as ever you’ve got to play to your strengths’.

“They’re very strong defenders and they’re exciting ball carriers and they’ve all got footwork.

“We don’t want to pigeonhole them. We want to give players the opportunity to play to their strengths and for some that’s getting their hands on the ball and using that ability.

“It’s pretty exciting and I’m really looking forward to how they’re going as a trio.”

The Sharks are missing eight players who are in the Springbok camp preparing for Friday’s match against Georgia, Covid permitting.

British and Irish Lions (v Sharks, Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg, Wednesday, 6pm)

15. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales)

14. Anthony Watson (Bath, England)

13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England)

12. Bundee Aki (Connacht, Ireland)

11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland)

10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales)

9. Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales)

1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England)

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

3. Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland)

4. Iain Henderson – Captain (Ulster, Ireland)

5. Adam Beard (Ospreys, Wales)

6. Josh Navidi (Cardiff, Wales)

7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England)

8. Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England)

Replacements:

16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales)

17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland

18. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, Ireland)

19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland)

20. Jack Conan (Leinster, Ireland)

21. Conor Murray (Munster, Ireland)

22. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland)

23. Chris Harris (Gloucester, Scotland)