Gatland switches Watson to full-back for Lions clash with South Africa 'A'

The British & Irish Lions tour has already been disrupted by COVID-19. Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

Anthony Watson will move from the wing to full-back for the much-changed British & Irish Lions as they start a new, tougher phase of their tour against South Africa 'A' in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Watson, who has started just four of his 54 test caps in the No. 15 jersey, is one of three players retained from the team that brushed aside the Sharks 71-31 on Saturday, along with centre Chris Harris and fly-half Dan Biggar.

Tour captain Conor Murray returns to the team at scrum-half for what will be the Lions' biggest challenge yet against a team drawn from the Springboks' expanded 46-man squad that has been preparing for the three test series that gets underway on July 24.

A strong South Africa 'A' team was also named to take on the British & Irish Lions as the Springboks seek to accelerate their readiness for the three-test series, which starts next weekend.

The side includes 18 players from the World Cup winning squad two years ago and five who started the Springboks' warm-up test against Georgia earlier this month and is a dress rehearsal for the tests.

Also in the side is veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn, who played against the Lions 12 years ago, and the team is captained by Lukanyo Am.

"We're pleased to have arrived in Cape Town as we near the halfway stage of the series," Lions coach Warren Gatland said in a statement on Monday.

"Wednesday's game against South Africa 'A' will be our toughest encounter since we arrived here and we're looking forward to it. We expect them to be physical in the contact area and look to test us at scrum time.

"I think we've benefitted from playing at altitude in the first three games. While the boys have felt it in their lungs, they'll be all the better for it now we're at sea level.

"As we move towards the business end of the Tour, it's pleasing to see so many players putting in some stand-out performances. As coaches we want the players to make Test selection as hard as possible and that's we're seeing."

Louis Rees-Zammit and the prolific Josh Adams will be the starting wings, while Harris and Bundee Aki are the centre pairing.

Props Kyle Sinckler and Wyn Jones will be either side of hooker Ken Owens at the front of the scrum, with Iain Henderson and Maro Itoje in the second row.

Taulupe Faletau will pack down at the back of the scrum, with Tom Curry and Josh Navidi the two flankers.

South Africa spent the last week in self isolation after an outbreak of COVID-19 cases and had to cancel the second of two warm-up tests against Georgia. They only resumed training on Sunday although are still without several players who are still self-isolating.

"We're pleased to be able to name a quality team with a number of experienced players despite the challenges in the last week, which included the entire squad being confined to their rooms as part of the team's preventative self-isolation measures," coach Jacques Nienaber said in a statement.

Nienaber will not be at the game, however, as he recovers from a COVID-19 infection.

British & Irish Lions XV

Anthony Watson, Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Bundee Aki, Josh Adams, Dan Biggar, Conor Murray (captain), Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Iain Henderson, Josh Navidi, Tom Curry, Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Adam Beard, Tadhg Beirne, Sam Simmonds Gareth Davies, Elliot Daly.

South Africa 'A' XV

Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am (captain), Damian de Allende, Sbu Nkosi, Morne Steyn, Faf de Klerk, Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marco van Staden, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Joseph Dweba, Steven Kitshoff

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Coenie Oosthuizen, Vincent Koch, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Damian Willemse, Kwagga Smith, Elton Jantjies.