ALUN Wyn Jones has completed his remarkable return from injury to lead the British and Irish Lions in the first Test against South Africa – but there is no place for Taulupe Faletau.

Lock Jones returned from injury with a cameo off the bench against the Stormers last weekend, just three weeks after suffering a shoulder injury against Japan.

The skipper has been paired with Maro Itoje in the second row while he is joined in the XV by Wales fly-half Dan Biggar and loosehead Wyn Jones, while hooker Ken Owens and full-back Liam Williams are on the bench.

However, there is no place for former Dragons number eight Faletau with Jack Conan instead chosen in the back row along with Courtney Lawes and Tom Curry.

South Wales Argus: INFLUENTIAL: Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau on the run for the Lions

Pontypool’s Faletau started the third Test against Australia in 2013 and all three clashes with New Zealand four years ago.

The 30-year-old misses out entirely while Conor Murray and Owen Farrell have to settle for spots on the bench.

“In my four tours as a Lions coach, this was by far the hardest Test selection I have been involved in,” said head coach Warren Gatland.

“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.

“We know what we’re coming up against on Saturday. It’s going to be an arm wrestle, there’s no doubt about it. We’ll need to front up physically and be ready to go from the first whistle.

“When we played SA ‘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.

“While the stands will be empty in Cape Town Stadium, we know Lions fans from across the home nations will be cheering us on back home. We’ll do our best to get the win.”

South Wales Argus:


15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland) #783

14. Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby, England) #816

13. Elliot Daly (Saracens, England) #822

12. Robbie Henshaw (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #824 

11. Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #841

10. Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales) #821

9. Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland) #843

1. Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales) #842

2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England) #851

3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #818 

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens, England) #825

5. Alun Wyn Jones – captain (Ospreys, Wales) #761

6. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England) #826   

7. Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England) #853

8. Jack Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland) #839


16. Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales) #829

17. Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland) #840

18. Kyle Sinckler (Bristol Bears, England) #814

19. Tadhg Beirne (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #838

20. Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland) #847  

21. Conor Murray (Munster Rugby, Ireland) #790

22. Owen Farrell (Saracens, England) #780

23. Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales) #833