Stuart Hogg will complete his eight-year Lions odyssey on Saturday by emerging from an isolation ordeal to start the first Test against South Africa, in a surprising side led by Alun Wyn Jones.
Scotland’s captain missed out on a place in the series against Australia in 2013 and New Zealand in 2017 – the latter as a result of a freak facial injury which forced him to return home early.
When he was dropped by Exeter at the end of last season and then forced to quarantine for seven days in Johannesburg after a COVID outbreak among Warren Gatland’s squad, it appeared that he might miss out again, but he will be named at full-back on Wednesday.
Stuart Hogg is set to start the Lions’ first Test against South Africa after returning from Covid isolation
Warren Gatland (left) will name a daring starting XV but there is no place for Taulupe Faletau
PROBABLE LIONS TEAM TO FACE SOUTH AFRICA
Starting XV: S Hogg; A Watson, E Daly, R Henshaw, D van der Merwe; D Biggar, A Price; W Jones, L Cowan-Dickie, T Furlong; A W Jones (c), M Itoje; C Lawes, J Conan, T Curry
Subs: K Owens, R Sutherland, K Sinckler, I Henderson, T Beirne, H Watson; C Murray, O Farrell
Lions head coach Gatland has brought forward the announcement of his line-up to face the world-champion Springboks and he will confirm that Jones has capped a remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder to take his place as lock and captain. i
He is also expected to confirm that Ali Price and Dan Biggar will form a starting half-back alliance, Luke Cowan-Dickie has been preferred at hooker and Jack Conan has been chosen ahead of Taulupe Faletau at No 8.
There has been much debate and intrigue about the midfield axis and it is understood that Robbie Henshaw and Elliot Daly will join forces again, as they did last weekend against the Stormers.
And with Anthony Watson and South Africa-born Duhan van der Merwe set to line up on the flanks, top try-scorer Josh Adams will be omitted from the match-day 23 entirely, along with Faletau, Jamie George, Mako Vunipola and Liam Williams.
Conor Murray and Owen Farrell are expected to be named as the two reserve backs among a six-two split on the bench.
Both would have been seen as likely starters before the tour, but these are not even the biggest selection shocks.
Gatland has shown in the past that he is not afraid to be ruthless and make bold decisions – and the team he names is destined to continue that tradition.
Alun Wyn Jones will captain the side after recovering form a discolated shoulder