Scotland’s Stuart Hogg has perhaps surprisingly been thrown the British & Irish Lions’ captain’s armband for their tour opener in Johannesburg on Saturday.

New tour captain Conor Murray was expected to lead out the side but Hogg will now have that honour when they get their tour off the ground against the Ellis Park-based Lions.

Murray‚ who inherited the captaincy after Alun Wyn Jones dislocated his shoulder last week‚ does not feature in the match 23 coach Warren Gatland has assembled for the clash.

Hogg‚ who was dropped by club Exeter in the latter stages of their Premiership race‚ got the early nod perhaps in a bid to restore his confidence. Hogg is endowed with huge self-belief.

So too perhaps his countryman Finn Russell who will start at flyhalf with potential rival for that jersey in the Tests Owen Farrell at inside centre. Favourite for that position in the Tests, Dan Biggar is not in the match squad.

If Russell takes time to settle next to Farrell he can at least depend on the service of fellow Scot‚ scrumhalf Ali Price.

Apart from Hogg and Russell in the back division‚ the skill set of young Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit will be eagerly watched.

In the pack the strong Scottish theme continues with Six Nations player of the year Hamish Watson on the flank. Taulupe Faletau is likely to give the Lions go-forward from the back of the scrum‚ while Courtney Lawes will be a valuable asset at the back of the line-out.

Closer to the front‚ Maro Itoje and Jonny Hill will be more immediate targets.

The strong English presence in the pack continues with hooker Jamie George and prop Kyle Sinckler. The last time the latter faced SA opposition was in the World Cup final when he left the game’s biggest stage injured after just three minutes.

British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (capt); Louis Rees-Zammit‚ Chris Harris‚ Owen Farrell‚ Josh Adams; Finn Russell‚ Ali Price; Taulupe Faletau‚ Hamish Watson‚ Courtney Lawes; Jonny Hill‚ Maro Itoje; Kyle Sinckler‚ Jamie George‚ Wyn Jones. Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie‚ Mako Vunipola‚ Zander Fagerson‚ Iain Henderson‚ Sam Simmonds; Gareth Davies‚ Bundee Aki‚ Elliot Daly.


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