Alun Wyn Jones has been deemed fit enough to skipper the British and Irish Lions against South Africa as Warren Gatland predicted an "arm wrestle" in the first Test after naming his XV for the match. Jones has recovered from the dislocated shoulder he sustained in the tourists 28-10 win over Japan at Murrayfield last month.
The Welsh lock will win his 10th successive Test cap in Cape Town on Saturday and joins an illustrious list of Lions players to have achieved the feat. Gareth Edwards (10), Graham Price (12), Mike Gibson (12) Dickie Jeeps (13) and Willie-John McBride (17) have all reached the milestone, although Jones is the first in the professional era.
Lions head coach Gatland warned Jones and his team-mates to be ready for a gruelling tussle against the Springboks, the current World Cup holders.
"We know what we're coming up against on Saturday. It’s going to be an arm wrestle, there’s no doubt about it," he told the British and Irish Lions website. "We'll need to front up physically and be ready to go from the first whistle. When we played South Africa A last week we probably took a bit too long to get into the game, something we can't afford to do that again this weekend."
"We need to make sure we play in the right areas of the field, not give them easy territory and take our chances when they come."
Jones is joined in the second row by England's Maro Itoje while compatriot Luke Cowan-Dickie, Wales' Wyn Jones and Ireland's Tadhg Furlong make up the front row. Courtney Lawes will play on the blind side flank on his first full Test appearance, having won his previous two caps from the bench against New Zealand in 2017.
Lawes' England team-mate Tom Curry has been named on the open side, with Irishman Jack Conan securing the number eight shirt. Scotland's Ali Price is at scrum-half and has Wales number 10 Dan Biggar for company in the half-back berths while Robbie Henshaw has returned from a hamstring injury to partner Elliot Daly in midfield. England's Anthony Watson wins his fourth Lions Test cap as he takes his spot on the wing opposite Duhan van der Merwe, with fellow Scot Stuart Hogg at full-back.
The starting XV includes three Scots for the first time since the 1997 Tour to South Africa.
"In my four tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in," Gatland added. "We couldn't have asked for more from the players so far. They've all put their hands up and made picking a starting XV incredibly difficult."
"In truth, we would have been happy with any number of different combinations across the 23, however, we're very pleased with the side we've settled on."
British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Elliot Daly, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Dan Biggar, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Maro Itoje, Alan Wyn Jones (captain), Courtney Lawes, Tom Curry, Jack Conan
Replacements: Ken Owens, Rory Sutherland, Kyle Sinckler, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams