Gerhard Erasmus and David Wiese saw Namibia over the line in an historic eight-wicket win over Ireland that sent the African nation into the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup for the first time.

Set a target of 126 to win in Sharjah, Namibia ensured an automatic place at the next T20 World Cup in Australia with an emphatic victory and eliminated Ireland.

Captain Erasmus top-scored with 53 not out, while Wiese made 28 from 14 deliveries tot propelled the minnows, who only attained ODI status in 2019, through with nine balls to spare.

"It's a dream that's come true. These players were six and seven-year-old boys, dreaming of playing against teams like India and Pakistan. That dream has come true," Namibia coach Pierre de Bruyn said.

"All they had in the last few years was to watch these guys on TV and dream about it. They will wake up knowing it's real. I am just so pleased for them. I don't think people really know how limited we are. We are not a cricket organisation with a luxury of great resources."

Jan Frylinck took 3-21 and Wiese claimed 2-22 as Ireland collapsed from 94-2 to 125-8 after Paul Stirling had smashed 38 off 24 balls.

Namibia will be in Group 2 of the Super 12s along with India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Scotland.

In Friday's other match, already-qualified Sri Lanka made light work of the Netherlands in an eight-wicket thrashing

Sri Lanka beat the Netherlands by nine wickets in their only previous T20I meeting, en route to winning the 2014 World Cup, and they skittled the European nation out for 44 in just 10 overs.

The Dutch had no answer to Lahiru Kumara (3-7) and Wanindu Hasaranga (3-9) and Maheesh Theekshana (2-3) before they cruised to victory in only 7.1 overs, Kusal Perera making 33 not out.

The Super 12s get under way on Saturday, with Australia facing South Africa and England taking on reigning champions West Indies.

Sri Lanka are through to the T20 World Cup Super 12 after a dominant 70-run win over Ireland.

Wanindu Hasaranga's 47-ball 71, along with 61 from Pathum Nissanka, which came from the same amount of deliveries, propelled the 2014 winners to 171-7.

The 172 target proved well beyond Ireland, who were dismissed for 101 with nine balls left, Hasaranga also taking a wicket and bowling a team-high 14 dot balls in a Man of the Match display.

It means Sri Lanka can top Group A with a win over the Netherlands, whose hopes came to an end with defeat to Namibia.

Max O'Dowd hit a 56-ball 70 for Netherlands as they posted 164-4, however, David Wiese's unbeaten 66 ensured Namibia got over the line for a six-wicket win with six balls left.

England are among the tournament favourites and they underlined that status with a 13-run warm-up win over New Zealand in which Jos Buttler delivered a scarcely needed reminder of his class by hitting 11 fours and two maximums for his 73.

Mark Wood (4-23) and Adil Rashid (3-18) impressed with the ball for England, who were runners-up in 2016 to West Indies.

The Windies seemingly have work to do ahead of the Super 12 after a 56-run defeat to Afghanistan, who saw Hazratullah Zazai (56) and Mohammad Shahzad (54) hit half-centuries.

Rassie van der Dussen, meanwhile, looks in ominous form for South Africa, his 51-ball 101 comprising of 10 fours and four maximums as South Africa saw off Pakistan by six wickets.

Sri Lanka eased to a straightforward seven-wicket victory over Namibia in their opening match of the T20 World Cup on Monday.

Namibia were dismissed for just 96 runs after being put into bat first, and Sri Lanka ultimately eclipsed that total as early as the 14th over.

Maheesh Theekshana was a key part of the Sri Lanka attack, taking Stephan Baard on his first delivery, before also claiming the scalps of Zane Green and Jan Frylinck, ending the day at 3-25.

Craig Williams (29) was the only Namibian to get more than 20, though his haul was hardly emphatic given it came off 36 balls and included just two boundaries.

Sri Lanka's innings did not start particularly impressively given they were 26-3 after the first ball of the sixth over, but Avishka Fernando (30 not out) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (42 not out) had a steadying impact as they got them over the line at 100-3.

The day's early Group A match saw Ireland win in similarly comprehensive fashion against the Netherlands, with the bowlers again having the decisive impact during a seven-wicket victory.

Curtis Campher (4-26) incredibly took all four of his wickets in succession to leave the Dutch in disarray, becoming only the third man after Lasith Malinga and Rashid Khan to achieve the feat in a T20I, while Mark Adair was even more efficient with figures of 3-9 in his four overs.

Like Campher, Adair's treble came in a row and right at the end as the Netherlands could only set a target of 106.

Paul Stirling (30 not out) kept things ticking over throughout with a professional – if unspectacular – knock, but Gareth Delany (44) top scored for the Irish. By the time he was eventually stopped by Pieter Seelaar's yorker, Ireland only needed another 12 runs.

Elsewhere, several of the tournament favourites were in action in warm-up matches. India beat England by seven wickets with six balls remaining partly down to swift 50s by KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan, while Australia's 159-7 saw them defeat New Zealand with one ball left.

South Africa enjoyed a comfortable 41-run win over Afghanistan and Pakistan defeated the West Indies by seven wickets in a little over 15 overs.

Captain Temba Bavuma led the way with the bat as South Africa wrapped up a T20I series sweep against Ireland thanks to a 49-run victory in the third and final game.

The Proteas made it four wins on the spin in the shortest format – their best run since a five-match span between October 2018 and February 2019 – thanks to a dominant display at Stormont, despite making five changes to the team.

Bavuma struck his maiden T20I half-century, making 72 from 51 deliveries while opening the batting as South Africa posted an imposing total of 189-2.

Reeza Hendricks made 69 at the top of the order, helping put on 127 for the first wicket with his skipper. Ireland eventually broke the stand in the 16th over, though David Miller came out at three to produce a stunning late attack, blitzing 36 from just 17 deliveries.

The home team lost Kevin O'Brien to the ninth ball of their reply, setting the tone for wickets to fall at regular intervals. Andy Balbirnie top-scored with 27 before becoming one of three batsmen to be dismissed in the space of nine runs, ending any hope of an Irish victory as they slipped to 78-5.

George Linde, Lizaad Williams and Wiaan Mulder all claimed two wickets apiece but Ireland at least avoided being bowled out inside the distance, finishing up on 140-9.


Miller makes hay on tour

A late cameo in the third game completed an impressive series for Miller. The left-handed batsman finished up with 139 runs having been dismissed just once.

His strike-rate of 169.51 runs per 100 deliveries was the best for any South African who faced a minimum of 10 balls, aided by hitting 11 fours and six sixes.

Irish made to wait

Ireland's winless run in T20I action continues. It is now seven without success, with this result extending their longest drought in the format.

Even facing a much-changed line-up minus both Quinton de Kock and Tabraiz Shamsi, two pivotal players for the Proteas, they were well beaten having been far more competitive in the preceding 50-over fixtures between the nations.

David Miller's 75 off 44 balls dragged South Africa back from 58-5 to reach 159-7 before Tabraiz Shamsi starred yet again to take 3-14 as he partnered with Bjorn Fortuin (3-16) to secure a 42-run victory and an unassailable 2-0 series lead against Ireland.

Despite losing the toss, Ireland started strongly as Paul Stirling removed Temba Bavuma and Janneman Malan without the Proteas scoring, before Mark Adair compounded further power-play misery by bowling Aiden Markram (eight off six balls) to leave the visitors 24-3 inside four overs.

Quinton de Kock's 27 off 20 balls offered counter-attacking hope but when he fell to Simi Singh's first delivery, South Africa looked nervy at 38-4 as they chased back-to-back T20I series wins for the first time since March 2019.

Miller, however, rebuilt for the visitors as he recorded his fourth T20I half-century and combined with Wiaan Mulder (36 off 26 balls) to put on 58 for the sixth wicket and guide his side to their first-innings total of 159-7.

Kevin O'Brien's lean spell then continued as he was caught and bowled by left-arm spinner Fortuin in the first over without troubling the scorers and that set the platform for another disappointing batting performance from Ireland.

George Dockrell, who was offered a lifeline on 12 by Markram's drop, scored 20 off as many deliveries but only he and Shane Getkate (24 off 18 balls) provided any resistance after Stirling had been removed for 19 off 23 balls by star spinner Shamsi.

In what looked like an identical repeat of the series opener, Andy Balbirinie's men batted timidly and appeared awestruck by the talent of Shamsi and Fortuin as they limped to 117 all out with three balls to spare.

Miller eradicates Stirling start

In 79 previous T20Is, Stirling had bowled 84 overs and taken just 17 wickets. But his two scalps, both caught by Josh Little in the first over, set Ireland off on a remarkable start.

But Miller, whose third fifty while batting at number six or lower in T20Is equalled the record set by Mohammad Nabi and Thisara Perera, provided an emphatic fightback to guide the visitors above par in Belfast.

The left-handed batsmen took 37 deliveries to reach the milestone but added 25 in his final seven as he blasted four sixes off Little's 20th over to finish strongly.

Spin it to win it, again

After spinning the Proteas to victory in Malahide with 4-27, the world's number-one ranked T20I bowler combined with Fortuin to dictate the Ireland chase.

Prior to this series, Shamsi's economy rate of 6.5 was the best among all bowlers to have bowled more than 10 T20I overs since the start of 2020, and the leg-spinner did that statistic no harm as he delivered 12 dot balls to go at just 3.5 an over during his spell.

While it was George Linde in Malahide, this time it was Fortuin who provided ample back-up to Shamsi as he bowled 18 dots to finish with an economy of just four an over.

Tabraiz Shamsi's 4-27 ensured a routine 33-run win for South Africa over Ireland to secure a 1-0 series lead in the first bilateral men's T20I between the two sides in Malahide on Monday.

Quinton de Kock's 20 off nine balls threatened a promising start but came to an end as he found Paul Stirling's hands off the bowling of Mark Adair and that laid the foundations for a stuttering first-innings performance from the Proteas.

The visitors lost wickets at regular intervals, with Rassie van der Dussen (25 off 18), Aiden Markram (39 off 30) and David Miller (28 off 21) all showing incentive before failing to capitalise as South Africa reached 165-7, a touch above the average first-innings score of 152 in Malahide.

Simi Singh (2-19), Josh Little (2-27) and Adair (3-39) were the pick of the Ireland bowlers despite the latter being bludgeoned for four consecutive fours by Kagiso Rabada in the 20th over, which leaked 17 runs.

Stirling hoisted George Linde's first ball of Ireland's reply for six but that did not prove a sign of things to come given he was immediately bowled around his legs by the following delivery.

Captain Andy Balbirnie's 22 off 16 balls offered minor resistance as he watched his side struggle to 38-4 at the end of the six-over powerplay, courtesy of two wickets for Lungi Ngidi's wickets and one a piece for Linde and Rabada.

Linde and the world's number-one ranked T20I bowler Shamsi then rolled through the hosts' batting line-up to take 2-26 and 4-27 from their respective allocations and restrict Ireland to 132-9, with Harry Tector's 36 off 34 balls and Barry McCarthy's lower-order cameo of 30 off 25 balls offering the smallest of boosts for Ireland's poor batting showing.

Spin it to win it

Singh's maiden ODI hundred proved in vain in the third ODI defeat for Ireland but he proved his worth with the ball in Malahide, producing an economical four-over spell that saw him go for just one boundary.

Linde enjoyed similar spinning success, though, it was Shamsi who stole the show once again for the Proteas.

The left-arm leg-spinner is the most economical bowler in T20I cricket since the start of 2020 and, barring a trio of wides and two avoidable boundaries, Shamsi displayed his quality as he frequently spun the Ireland batsmen into a tangle.

 

O'Brien's ominous struggles

After playing five internationals and scoring just 27 runs, including a duck and three single-score returns, in 2021 heading into this match, Kevin O'Brien fell for another first-ball dismissal as he was caught and bowled by Rabada.

Turning out for Leinster Lightning in Ireland's inter-provincial T20 tournament, O'Brien has endured a lean domestic spell, too, managing a meagre 47 runs in six matches with a top score of 16.

O'Brien, scorer of Ireland's only hundred in the shortest limited-overs format, will be desperate to find form before the T20 World Cup gets underway in October.

Head coach Mark Boucher will hope to rouse his South Africa side for this week's T20I series against Ireland, conceding a lengthy limited stint away from home has taken its toll.

The Proteas diced with humiliation in the ODI rubber, as Ireland beat them in the 50-over format for the first time before centuries from Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock secured a 70-run win in the third match to snatch a 1-1 series draw.

South Africa moved from one bio-secure bubble to another, following their 3-2 T20I victory in the West Indies with the trip to Ireland, and those obligations have taken place amid a slew of awful news from back home.

A third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped South Africa, while Boucher's players wore black armbands for the third ODI to show solidarity with those affected by mounting scenes of violence.

"We weren't there the other day," Boucher said of the 43-run defeat to Ireland, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo. "Our awareness was down; our intensity was down.

"We looked at quite a few things without making excuses. We had a long chat after the game and we said, 'Guys we are in a position where we can't afford to make excuses. You are playing for your country and you have to be up every game'."

South Africa only have these games – Monday's match at Malahide before back-to-back games in Belfast - and three more versus Sri Lanka before the T20 World Cup gets underway in Oman in October, not an ideal situation given a devilish Group 1 draw alongside England, Australia and West Indies.

However, if Boucher's players were to complain about being under-cooked, they would have few grounds for complaint alongside Ireland.

Andy Balbirnie's side have not played a T20I since last March, with proposed series against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Pakistan falling foul of the pandemic.

Five matches against Zimbabwe follow this series before Ireland enter the Group A qualifier section alongside Sri Lanka, Namibia and the Netherlands at the T20 World Cup, from which two teams progress.

Shamsi looking to consolidate number one status

Irrespective of how ideal or otherwise their preparations have been, South Africa have their T20 World Cup trump card in Tabraiz Shamsi. The left-arm wrist spinner is ranked as the number one bowler in the world in the shortest international format and his economy rate of 6.5 since the beginning of 2020 is the best of anyone to have bowled in 10 or more innings.

 

O'Brien hoping to regain form alongside old ally Stirling

Ireland's main threat in the shortest format often comes from Paul Stirling and Kevin O'Brien at the top of the order. The veteran O'Brien is one of his country's finest ever players but he did not feature in the recent series against South Africa, having retired from ODIs. His final four knocks in the format were two, one, one and nought and the 37-year-old will hope to put that slump behind him.

Key Opta facts
- This will be the first bilateral men's T20I game between Ireland and South Africa. Ireland will be South Africa's 13th opposition in the format, while the Proteas will be their hosts' 24th.
- South Africa have dropped 29 chances since the beginning of 2020 in T20I cricket, the most of all Test playing nations during this time. Ireland have dropped the fewest (five), although they’ve also played the joint fewest such matches of any Test playing nation.
- Ireland have hit a boundary once every 3.7 balls in T20 powerplays since the beginning of 2020, the most frequent of any Test playing country in that time.
- De Kock has hit 31 sixes in T20Is since the start of 2020. Only Martin Guptill and Evin Lewis (both 34) have struck more.
- Balbirnie requires 55 more runs to become the fifth Irish batsman to score 1,000 runs in T20Is in just his 40th innings. He is set to surpass Stirling's Ireland best mark of reaching the landmark in 45 knocks.

Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock both hit centuries as South Africa sealed a 70-run win over Ireland on Friday, tying the ODI series at 1-1.

Ireland enjoyed a famous first ever win over South Africa in international cricket last time out, with captain Andy Balbirnie playing a starring role with a knock of 102.

But they were unable to follow that up by clinching what would have been a maiden series triumph over a top-eight ranked team, as the Proteas this time managed to meet expectations by posting 346-4.

The opening partnership of Malan (177 not out) and De Kock (120) set the tone, with each recording impressive knocks. The latter was returning to action after being rested for the previous outings on the tour.

Ireland eventually ended the stand at 225 in the 37th over when De Kock was dismissed by Simi Singh (1-52), but South Africa piled on 100 runs in the final 10 overs to set a significant total.

Ireland were given a mountain to climb in reply after losing Paul Stirling and Balbirnie inside the first four overs. Andy McBrine also fell in the powerplay, while Harry Tector, George Dockrell and Lorcan Tucker departed in quick succession to suddenly leave the score at 92-6.

South Africa-born all-rounder Curtis Campher made 54 but it was Singh who was the star performer with the bat for the hosts, making a maiden ODI century.

He would end up unbeaten on exactly 100 from 91 deliveries as Ireland were bowled out for 276 at the start of the 48th over. Andile Phehlukwayo and Tabraiz Shamsi both claimed three wickets apiece for the Proteas.

 

Malan's the man

The pressure was on South Africa here after a disappointing showing last time, yet Malan – who was by no means in poor form after hitting 84 last time out – looked in control almost throughout. He had few near-misses en route to the best score of his seven-match international career, this his second ton in the 50-over format.

Singh on song

While Ireland's bowlers gave the batsmen too much work to do, Singh provided some positivity towards the end of the innings – without his efforts, it could have been a particularly ugly defeat. His knock included 14 boundaries, and he managed to reach three figures before running out of partners.

Ireland earned a famous ODI victory over South Africa in Dublin, with captain Andy Balbirnie scoring a century.

After the first ODI was rained off without a result, Ireland won by 43 runs on Tuesday and will now seek to seal a surprise series success in the final match on Friday.

Captain Andy Balbirnie made 102 as a fast finish from Ireland saw them put up a total of 290-5 from their 50 overs after being put in to bowl by Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma.

That total always looked competitive on a green wicket although it was not until Janneman Malan (84) and Rassie van der Dussen (49) were removed in consecutive overs that South Africa began to toil.

Ireland's Paul Stirling (27) and Andy McBrine (30) were dismissed after making starts, with economical Proteas bowler Tabraiz Shamsi (1-42) limiting the early progress.

Shamsi had Harry Tector dropped first ball in a difficult chance for wicket-keeper Kyle Verreynne, who nonetheless soon rued that moment.

Four sixes helped Tector to 79 runs from 68 balls in a spectacular knock, lasting until the final over when George Dockrell (45 from 23) also fell, with Ireland smashing 65 from the last five overs.

Ireland got off to a good bowling start when Aiden Markram (5) and Bavuma (10) fell early.

Malan and Van der Dussen got to work slowly rebuilding the innings, but the end of their 108-run partnership for the third wicket proved decisive.

Opener Malan was looking to up the tempo when he holed out to deep midwicket in the 33rd over.

Van der Dussen, who impressed in the recent series against Pakistan, fell one short of a fifty seven balls later, out lbw to McBrine (2-34).

That left South Africa on 160-4 and they subsequently collapsed to 247 all out.
 

History for Ireland

Bavuma was immediately facing questions for resting Quinton de Kock and Lungi Ngidi after Ireland made history with a first win over South Africa in international cricket.

Ireland came into this triple-header having lost consecutive 50-over series to Afghanistan and Netherlands, though they have now won five of their last six completed ODIs on home soil, including four straight wins.

South Africa had won all five of the previous completed ODIs between the nations and they have never met in any other format.

Brilliant Balbirnie

Balbirnie scored 65 in the abandoned first ODI and produced an even better knock here after being promoted to opener in place of William Porterfield.

He racked up 12 boundaries which included two sixes in his 117-ball innings, reaching his fifty in just 51 balls to set the tone before holding the fort to set a platform for Tector to make hay late on.

Balbirnie had a scare when dropped by Kagiso Rabada on 74, but ultimately it was a seventh ODI century for him, having also reached three figures in this format against England last year.

South Africa and Ireland will be hunting crucial ICC Cricket World Cup Super League points in a historic three-match ODI series.

The Proteas travelled to Dublin for a first white-ball tour of Ireland at the bottom of the table targeting a whitewash.

Temba Bavuma's side can move into fifth spot - which would secure automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup in India - if they pull off a clean sweep.

Ireland are in 10th place with only two wins from nine matches and they face a big challenge, with South Africa on a high from beating West Indies 3-2 in a Twenty20 International series in the Caribbean.

South Africa have won all five matches versus Ireland in the 50-over format and will be strong favourites to maintain that perfect record in a series that stars in Malahide on Sunday.

The Proteas went down 2-1 in their last ODI series at home to Pakistan despite the best efforts of Rassie van der Dussen, who scored a hundred and a half-century in his two knocks.

Paceman Anrich Nortje took seven wickets in two matches but Pakistan came out on top.

Sisanda Magala missed the tour, which will also see South Africa and Ireland play three T20s, due to an ankle injury.  

Ireland welcome back South Africa-born all-rounder Curtis Campher from injury, providing a boost following Kevin O'Brien's recent retirement from ODI cricket. 

 

BAVUMA EAGER TO BUILD MOMENTUM

Bavuma knows securing maximum points is the most important thing in Ireland but the Proteas captain wants to see his side show how they intend to go about their business in the coming years.

"The first part is to start racking up points for qualification for the World Cup," said Bavuma. "We also want to start getting to terms with how we want to go about playing our cricket.

"I think we've done that fairly well in the West Indies Twenty20 series and we want to transfer that to our one-day cricket."

 

BALBIRNIE AWARE OF GULF IN CLASS

Ireland were beaten 2-1 by the Netherlands in their last ODI series and captain Andy Balbirnie knows getting the better of the Proteas will be a tall order.

He said: "A lot of people on the outside will look at this and say there's only one team winning this series, and that's fair enough because it's a really impressive South Africa side.

"I don't have to keep harping on about how good a team they are – I think everyone knows there is a big gulf in the teams. But we do have match-winners in our team."

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

-  Ireland have lost 11 of their 14 ODIs (W3) since the beginning of 2020, the most defeats any country has suffered in the format in that time.
- Quinton de Kock has 177 dismissals in ODIs (168 catches, 9 stumpings) – the second-most by any player in the format since the wicketkeeper-batsman made his debut in January 2013 behind England's Jos Buttler (213).
- Paul Stirling has scored four ODI hundreds since the start of last year, the most by any player in that time: Only India's KL Rahul (62) averages more in the format during this period than Stirling's 60.4 (min. 10 innings).
- Ireland have hit a boundary every 13.2 balls in ODIs since the beginning of 2018, the least frequent of any Test-playing country in that time.

Johnny Sexton's omission from the British and Irish Lions squad was one of Warren Gatland's "toughest decisions", the coach has admitted.

Ireland legend Sexton, the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year, was one of the surprise exclusions from Gatland's 37-man selection for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

Sexton misses out despite the fly-half playing a key role on the 2017 trip to New Zealand, with Gatland expressing some concerns over the 35-year-old's "durability" and instead calling up Dan Biggar, Owen Farrell and Finn Russell.

"There's no doubt that that was one of the toughest decisions that we had to make," said Gatland at a news conference on Thursday.

"I've got a huge amount of respect for Johnny and his quality, but it's such a pivotal position for us and it's about sending a message to the 10s that we have selected that we have the confidence and belief in them to do a job.

"When we looked at where we were going in South Africa probably the thing that kept coming back to us was Johnny's durability, being able to put a string of matches together consecutively, and big matches.

"He has been rested on a number of occasions and unfortunately that's possibly what swayed it for us in terms of us not having the confidence that he can get through what's going to be a tough, physical tour."

Billy Vunipola was also a notable absentee from the list, while other big calls saw Wales centre Jonathan Davies, England prop Kyle Sinckler and Ireland second row James Ryan left out.

However, Gatland did find room for Exeter Chiefs number eight Sam Simmonds, who has not played a Test for England since March 2018.

The Lions will face the Springboks in Tests on July 24, July 31 and August 7.

Alun Wyn Jones has been named captain of the British and Irish Lions for their tour of South Africa, leading a 37-man squad.

Warren Gatland announced his selection on Thursday ahead of the trip in July, which follows a warm-up against Japan next month.

Wales great Jones has been chosen for the leadership role having featured in the past nine Lions Tests going back to 2009, the longest run in the professional era.

Jones has already skippered the side once previously in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton in Australia eight years ago, clinching a first series win since 1997.

Elsewhere in Gatland's squad, Ireland's former World Rugby Player of the Year Johnny Sexton misses out despite playing a key role on the 2017 trip to New Zealand.

Billy Vunipola was also a notable absentee from the list, while other big calls saw Wales centre Jonathan Davies, England prop Kyle Sinckler and Ireland second row James Ryan excluded.

However, Gatland did find room for Exeter Chiefs number eight Sam Simmonds, who has not played a Test for England since March 2018.

"We believe we've picked a squad capable of winning a Test series in South Africa," Gatland - who opted for 11 Englishmen, 10 Welshmen and eight apiece from Ireland and Scotland - said following the squad announcement.

"Selecting a Lions squad is never easy and, in many ways, this has been the most challenging selection I have been involved in.

"Over the course of the last three weeks the coaches and I have rigorously debated each position.

"We saw some outstanding performances in the recent Six Nations, so competition for places has been tough with some incredibly tight calls to make. 

"However, we are very happy with the squad we have assembled and look forward to meeting up in Jersey in just over a month's time to start our preparation to take on the world champions.

"We've left out some very talented players which gives an indication to the strength of this squad and we know how important that stand-by list will be.

"Being selected for a Lions tour is the greatest honour for a British and Irish player and I congratulate everyone named today."

The Lions will face the Springboks in Tests on July 24, July 31 and August 7.


British and Irish Lions squad in full:

Josh Adams (Cardiff, Wales), Bundee Aki (Connacht, Ireland), Dan Biggar (Northampton Saints, Wales), Elliot Daly (Saracens, England), Gareth Davies (Scarlets, Wales), Owen Farrell (Saracens, England), Chris Harris (Gloucester, Scotland), Robbie Henshaw (Leinster, Ireland), Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs, Scotland), Conor Murray (Munster, Ireland), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Gloucester, Wales), Finn Russell (Racing 92, Scotland), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh, Scotland), Anthony Watson (Bath, England), Liam Williams (Scarlets, Wales); Tadhg Beirne (Munster, Ireland), Jack Conan (Leinster, Ireland), Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks, England), Zander Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Taulupe Faletau (Bath, Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Leinster, Ireland), Jamie George (Saracens, England), Iain Henderson (Ulster, Ireland), Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs, England), Maro Itoje (Saracens, England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys, Wales), Wyn Jones (Scarlets, Wales), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints, England), Ken Owens (Scarlets, Wales), Andrew Porter (Leinster, Ireland), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England), Rory Sutherland (Edinburgh, Scotland), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys, Wales), Mako Vunipola (Saracens, England), Hamish Watson (Edinburgh, Scotland).

Alun Wyn Jones has been named captain of the British and Irish Lions for their tour of South Africa, leading a 36-man squad.

Warren Gatland announced his selection on Thursday ahead of the trip in July, which follows a warm-up against Japan next month.

Wales great Jones has been chosen as captain having featured in the past nine Lions Tests going back to 2009, the longest run in the professional era.

Jones has already skippered the side once in the absence of the injured Sam Warburton in Australia eight years ago, clinching a first series win since 1997.

It was not sealed in the fashion they would have hoped for, but Wales could belatedly celebrate Six Nations glory on Friday.

Wayne Pivac's side had missed the chance to claim a Grand Slam triumph last week in a heartbreaking last-gasp defeat to France.

But with France needing a bonus-point win by a 21-point margin in Friday's rearranged clash with Scotland - delayed due to an earlier COVID-19 outbreak - to deny Wales again, Les Bleus' loss in Paris handed them the title.

"It's a real emotional rollercoaster, the last seven days really," Wales head coach Pivac said on Saturday.

He added: "It was just different and that's what we've come to expect from this pandemic really.

"It was evident that we had to go and do something different and that was to watch us win a championship from our living room."

That was far from the only first in a tournament with its fair share of twists and turns, though, as Opta data shows.
 

MORE TRIES, MORE DRAMA

There were six tries in Friday's frantic affair at the Stade de France and that contributed to a new Six Nations record.

A total of 86 tries were scored across the 15 matches, the most in a single edition of the tournament in its history.

And Scotland's dramatic 27-23 success, sealed with an 80th-minute Duhan van der Merwe score, was a fitting end to the competition.

Eight of the 15 games were decided by margins of five points or fewer, another new benchmark.

"There were some great games," Pivac said. "It was just a shame we didn't have crowds. You can imagine how much of an atmosphere would have been generated.

"It was a good advertisement for the game and a lot of nations are heading in the right direction. It's exciting."

Van der Merwe beat two defenders in the decisive fixture and in doing so set a new tournament high of 31, surpassing Brian O'Driscoll's 30 defenders beaten in 2000.

The wing's brace also saw him become the first Scotland player to finish a Six Nations campaign as the outright leading try scorer (five).

France needed to score at least one more try in order to have a chance of snatching the championship, but they still matched their best haul of 18 from 2006.

Not all the records were quite so impressive.

Italy conceded 239 points, 34 tries and had a points difference of -184, the worst such tallies for any team in an edition of the Six Nations.
 

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Wales' title was their sixth since Italy were introduced to the tournament to form the Six Nations in 2000.

Four of their previous five had been Grand Slam successes, a record over this period they could not extend thanks to France's epic win last week.

But Wales are now only one Six Nations crown behind England's seven.

"It gives us a lot of confidence to feel like we're on the right track," the title-winning coach said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves."

This was not a tournament England will reflect on fondly, even as captain Owen Farrell became only the third man - after Ronan O'Gara and Jonny Wilkinson - to reach 500 points in the Five/Six Nations.

Eddie Jones' outfit came in as defending champions but slumped to their joint-worst Six Nations finish, coming fifth as they had in 2018.

England also lost against Ireland, Wales and Scotland in the same Five/Six Nations campaign for the first time since 1976.

At the bottom of the table, though, there was no change.

Italy have picked up the Wooden Spoon in each of the past six years, this after finishing bottom of the championship just once in the prior four seasons.

The British and Irish Lions' tour of South Africa is set to go ahead as planned later this year after proposals to stage matches elsewhere were rejected.

Due to continued complications surrounding the coronavirus crisis, questions were raised over whether the Lions would be able to travel to South Africa for the eight-match trip.

But rather than host matches in the UK and Ireland, or take up Australia's offer to play games Down Under, it has been decided to press ahead with the original itinerary

The Lions and SA Rugby released a joint statement on Tuesday to confirm an agreement is in place over the staging of the tour, which begins on July 3 and continues into early August.

"After reviewing information relating to the various contingency scenarios being considered, I can confirm that the board's intended position is for the Tour to go ahead as scheduled in South Africa in 2021," said Lions chairman Jason Leonard.

"We acknowledge that there is a significant amount of work still to be undertaken to deliver a robust Covid-19 countermeasure plan to ensure a successful, safe and uninterrupted Tour. SA Rugby will have our full support to help implement this plan."

However, the original plan for the Lions to play five warm-up matches against provincial teams, an invitational side and second-string South Africa A before the three-Test series with the Springboks could still change.

"We appreciate the Lions' faith and share their desire to see a safe and successful tour,” said SA Rugby president Mark Alexander in the same statement. 

"We have been in regular contact with our government to make that a reality against the backdrop of the pandemic and its predicted progression over the coming months.

"There are serious financial implications for SA Rugby, should the event take place without any supporters in attendance, and we cannot ignore that in our considerations. 

"But we are determined that the eventual outcome will deliver the best occasion and experience for players, supporters and our commercial partners."

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney acknowledged the preferred contingency plan of staging the tour in the UK had become increasingly unviable.

"It was always the preferred option to go to South Africa," he said. "We had to develop a whole range of different scenarios given the potential outcomes and one of those was a UK series.

"It's quite controversial as it's not the spirit of the Lions, but as fall-back option, we thought it was a strong one. If they can't host it, the agreement's off and we've probably run out of time to host it in the UK, so you play in 2025."

Lions coach Warren Gatland is due to announce a squad for the tour at the start of May, with the first warm-up match to be played on home soil on Murrayfield against Japan on June 26.

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