Wyn Jones’ return and key questions facing British and Irish Lions coach Gatland

Alun Wyn Jones has rejoined the Lions squad just over two weeks after dislocating his shoulder in a tour warm-up match against Japan.

At the time, the suggestion was that the captain was out for good, with Wales' Adam Beard was brought to South Africa as a replacement.

However, the skipper has made a miraculous recovery and has been named on the bench for Warren Gatland's side's last warm-up fixture against the Stormers this Saturday, before the upcoming three tests against South Africa.

So will Jones be able to start the first test? Will he be tour captain once more? And what other shirt battles are happening in the squad?

Here is all you need to know ahead of the first test on July 24.

Will Jones be involved in the first test?

Many, including Gatland himself, believed it would be a miracle for Jones to return and play in the tour but the most capped rugby player of all time is back.

He arrived in South Africa on Thursday and is a substitute for the Stormers match on Saturday.

Ahead of the Lions' game against South Africa A on Wednesday, Gatland spoke about the possibility of the Welsh talisman being involved in the first test with South Africa.

He told Sky Sports: "Alun Wyn Jones will be back tomorrow and he will be in contention for the first Test.

"We will have a conversation with Alun Wyn when he gets out here."

There is competition for AWJ's position with Maro Itoje, Beard and Tadhg Beirne among those fighting to start at lock.

The return of Jones thwarts their chances of picking up test caps but Itoje – who could switch position – insists the competition for the jersey is what he wants.

He told Sky Sports: "He's a man of immeasurable experience, he is the most capped player in the history of rugby. He is going to add his experience and clout.

"To be honest I want the competition, I want the best team available and I want to compete. Those kind of decisions are left to the man who gets paid the big bucks in Warren Gatland."

But is AWJ game ready?

What could sway Gatland's decision is if AWJ is once again named tour captain.

Who is tour captain now?

When AWJ was injured, Ireland legend Conor Murray was named as the new skipper.

It's now uncertain who will lead the charge and Gatland didn't give a definitive answer when asked. The coach said he would have a discussion with both players and make the decision that was best for the team.

Murray has spoken of his amazement at AWJ's recovery and was glad to see his teammate back in action, rather than hold any bitterness at the potential honour being taken away from him.

It isn't so important who leads the team in their warm-up match this weekend, but it's a question which will need answering before the first test.

Who are winning other hotly-contested battles?

Every shirt in the Lions starting XV is hotly contested but there are some that will divide opinion.

Firstly the fly-half position. Harlequins star Marcus Smith gets to prove his worth this weekend with his first start after being called up following Finn Russell's injury.

Smith's competition is Dan Biggar and Owen Farrell. Wales' Biggar is arguably favourite to take the jersey after impressive performances so far.

Farrell could run out at inside centre, as he does for England, but he also faces stiff competition there particularly from Robbie Henshaw. Farrell's last chance to impress came on Wednesday as he has not been named in the team for this Saturday's match.

The Saracens star had a rocky game against South Africa A, his kick was charged down which lead to South Africa A's first try, so it will be interesting to see where he slots in… if at all.

Among the forwards there is a lot of talent vying for the hooker shirt. England's Jamie George and Luke Cowan-Dickie, as well as Wales' Ken Owens have all displayed what they can do so far on the tour.

George has been the preferred choice previously but Owens has played some fantastic rugby this year, especially in the Six Nations, so there won't be much surprise if he gets Gatland's nod.

Who will win the Lions series? Comment below

Source: Read Full Article