Marcus Smith played himself into contention to start the first Test against South Africa after a debut for the British and Irish Lions that delighted Warren Gatland.

Coach Gatland also expressed satisfaction at seeing Alun Wyn Jones back in action during Saturday's 49-3 win over the Stormers, three weeks after the captain dislocated his shoulder against Japan.

There will be "robust debate" over the coming days, Gatland predicted, as he and his coaching team consider their options for the July 24 series opener against the Springboks.

"With Marcus Smith, the longer the game went on, the better he looked and more comfortable out there," Gatland said.

Smith was a late addition to the tourists' squad, summoned from England duty after winning his first caps for Eddie Jones' side, but the Harlequins fly-half brought youthful zest to the Lions in Cape Town.

His kicking was reliable too, Smith nailing the extras for each of the Lions' seven tries.

As for whether the 22-year-old should start against South Africa, Gatland said: "Those are conversations we haven't had. I thought he looked good out there, some lovely touches. He kicked for goal well and I thought he defended well.

"For a guy who's only had one training session I thought it was pretty good. He'll be part of the discussions, no doubt about that.

"A lot of people put their hand up tonight and there were some pleasing performances on Wednesday too."

Wednesday's game saw the Lions beaten 17-13 by a strong South Africa A team, and Gatland made wholesale changes for the Stormers clash, allowing him to have a good look at all his options.

The return of Jones, who arrived in South Africa only on Thursday, means he assumes the tour captaincy again. That responsibility was initially transferred to Conor Murray when it appeared Jones had no chance of being involved.

Murray was more than happy to hand over the leadership duty, Gatland said, with one caveat.

"Conor, he's the first to admit he was more than comfortable for Alun Wyn to come back," Gatland said. "He wasn't prepared to give up his bedroom suite though, because I think he got the captain's bedroom suite."

Jones had almost half an hour as a second-half replacement against the Stormers, and Gatland said Test rugby's most-capped player would benefit from getting back to action.

"I thought he put a few shots on and defended well, had a couple of touches," Gatland said in his post-game news conference.

"The big thing for him was to get through that period and then to see how he was afterwards.

"We'll have that discussion about whether there's a role for him, either as a starter or a bench player or not involved next week.

"If he is not involved, we'll look at who potentially leads the team."

Alun Wyn Jones returned to British and Irish Lions action in a crushing 49-3 win over the Stormers as the tourists found form ahead of next week's first Test against the Springboks.

The man who was designated as captain for this tour, only to suffer a shoulder dislocation in the Murrayfield clash with Japan last month, has made a spirited recovery and played almost half an hour of a one-sided tussle in Cape Town.

Whether he now starts against South Africa remains to be seen, but Jones has given coach Warren Gatland food for thought, and he was hardly the only player to do that.

This seven-try demolition was a perfect response to the midweek defeat to South Africa A, with scrum-half Ali Price, hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and second-rower Adam Beard among the standouts.

The Stormers snatched a 20th-minute lead with a penalty from Tim Swiel, but the Lions had threatened already by that stage and it was not long before their quality began to show.

Josh Adams powered into space out wide and made valuable yards before the ball was fed back for Beard to jog through a gap in the Stormers ranks.

The defensive effort again seemed sub-par when Cowan-Dickie scrambled through for the Lions' second try in the 34th minute. He picked the ball from back of a maul, after his lineout throw, and scurried through to just short of the line before the Stormers got close to him.

It was 21-3 by the break, with Price feeding Beard who quickly relayed the ball to Stuart Hogg, and the captain put in Jonny Hill to score in the left corner.

Lions debutant Marcus Smith booted the extras each time and the young Englishman played a key part in the fourth try when his quick pass found Price, who in turn offloaded to number eight Jack Conan to run in from 30 metres.

With the game safe, and an eye on next weekend, Gatland introduced Jones just after the 50-minute mark, the most-capped player in Test rugby replacing Beard. The coach was looking for a steely run-out from the captain who dislocated his shoulder just three weeks ago.

Jones was not shirking anything, and Gatland made good use of his bench as the match went on, with Price doing his hopes of a Test start no harm before making way for Gareth Davies as the hour approached.

Tadhg Beirne had a try disallowed after a forward pass, before a fifth score for the tourists arrived in the 68th minute when Zander Fagerson dived over from close range.

Fagerson's fellow replacement Louis Rees-Zammit bolted in off the wing to net the Lions' late sixth try.

Smith, who created the space for that try, was again immaculate from the tee, converting for a seventh time after Sam Simmonds dotted down a last-gasp effort.

NAME YOUR PRICE

Is Conor Murray inked into Gatland's Test team, or might Price have done enough to edge ahead of the Irishman? Scotland scrum-half Price was impressive here, scurrying busily and purposefully like the man on a mission that he is. Price has done himself the power of good on this tour, and the Springboks will have taken note of the Glasgow Warriors man's threat and quick thinking behind the scrum.

The British and Irish Lions will aim to protect a proud record that goes back almost a century when they tackle the Stormers on Saturday in Cape Town.

It was 1924 when the Lions last lost consecutive non-Test matches on a tour of South Africa, and Warren Gatland's side head into the weekend on the back of a midweek defeat.

That loss on Wednesday came at the hands of a strong South Africa A, with the Lions going down 17-13 to a team that featured several World Cup winners.

Coach Gatland has named a wholly new XV for the tussle with the Stormers, and he insists places for the first Test against the Springboks next weekend are very much up for grabs.

Asked about scrum-half Ali Price, who has Gareth Davies and Connor Murray as competition for the number nine Test jersey, Gatland urged the Scotland international to grasp his chance against the Stormers.

"I'm pleased with the way he's gone. He's kicked well. He's got that left foot variation. He's made a couple of nice breaks and he's defended well too," Gatland said.

"He's had a really good tour so it's a really good game for him to play on Saturday and give him an opportunity to put his hand up."

Alun Wyn Jones could remarkably have a part to play too, having recovered from the dislocated shoulder he sustained against Japan at Murrayfield last month.

Test rugby's most-capped player, initially designated as captain of the Lions for this tour, will be on the replacements' bench against the Stormers.

Gatland said: "I spoke to Alun Wyn and spoke to the medical team about the ability to put him on the bench. We felt if he was going to be in contention next week that he needed to have a hit-out to prove 100 per cent he was fit and ready to go."

A minor ankle knock means Welsh fly-half Dan Biggar sits out the Stormers clash, as Gatland warned there was a risk he would be "sore" afterwards.

"If it was a Test match, he would have fronted up and be ready to go," said the head coach added.

The Lions will be on their guard against a team who boast, in wing Edwill van der Merwe, the leading try-scorer from South Africa's Rainbow Cup competition this year. Van der Merwe bagged five tries, with no other player scoring more than three, and he also recorded the best average gain per carry of any player to run with the ball on more than five occasions in the competition (11.2 metres per carry).

Across their five games in that tournament, the Stormers won twice and lost three times, but each match was decided by a margin or four points or fewer, and they averaged the most tackles per game of any side (130) and had the best tackle success rate (86 per cent).

 

FINAL CHANCE TO STAKE A CLAIM

Gatland confirmed a combination of Biggar at 10 and Owen Farrell at 12 remains an option for the Lions for the Test series. He said: "We haven't had that opportunity to play those two together, the way that things have gone. First thing is we want to see how the midfield combination with Robbie [Henshaw] and Elliot [Daly] goes as well.

"We have got other options and that 10-12 combination ... we know with his experience that Owen could easily fit into that 12 position. It's not something that, because we haven't used, it we wouldn't potentially consider."

SMITH THE BOLTER

Marcus Smith has a monumental opportunity this weekend, selected to start at fly-half in the final match before the Tests get under way. Fresh from an England Test debut, it is suddenly not beyond the bounds of possibility that the 22-year-old international newcomer could come into the reckoning for next Saturday.

His opposite number will be a familiar face, with former Harlequins club-mate Tim Swiel selected at number 10 by the Stormers.

British & Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (captain), Josh Adams, Elliot Daly, Robbie Henshaw, Duhan van der Merwe, Marcus Smith, Ali Price; Rory Sutherland, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Tadhg Furlong, Adam Beard, Jonny Hill, Tadhg Beirne, Hamish Watson, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Alun Wyn Jones, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Chris Harris, Louis Rees-Zammit.

Stormers: Sergeal Petersen, Seabelo Senatla, Rikus Pretorius, Dan du Plessis, Edwill van der Merwe, Tim Swiel, Godlen Masimla; Leon Lyons, JJ Kotze, Neethling Fouche, Ernst van Rhyn (captain), JD Schickerling, Nama Xaba, Johan du Toit, Evan Roos.

Replacements: Andre-Hugo Venter, Kwenzo Blose, Sazi Sandi, Justin Basson, Marcel Theunissen, Thomas Bursey, Abner van Reenen, Juan de Jongh, Lee-Marvin Mazibuko, Niel Otto, Leolin Zas, Cornel Smit.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– The British and Irish Lions have never played the Stormers but played Western Province on 16 occasions, winning the last seven of those clashes. They also played Boland on four occasions, the other feeder team for the Stormers (W4).
– In 2009, the Lions required a late James Hook penalty goal to secure the win against Western Province (26-23) at a wet Newlands. Tommy Bowe, Ugo Monye and Martyn Williams all scored tries for the tourists that day.
– The Lions have lost just one of their past 10 matches immediately prior to the first Test of a tour (2013 v Brumbies), not losing such a fixture in South Africa since 1962 against Northern Transvaal.
– Smith was the only player to evade more than half of the tackle attempts that were made on him in the Premiership last season, among all those who faced 50 or more such attempts. He also made more break assist passes (27) than any other player in the league and ranked second for try assists (15).

British and Irish Lions captain Alun Wyn Jones will start on the bench against the Stormers on Saturday following his remarkable recovery from a dislocated shoulder.

Jones suffered the injury in a pre-tour match against Japan and was expected to miss the series against South Africa.

However, coach Warren Gatland confirmed at the start of the week that the most-capped player of all time was to be back in contention for the Lions when their three-Test series against the Springboks starts on July 24.

That will be two days shy of a month since sustaining the initial injury, though he could be in action even before that, highlighting the incredible nature of his recovery.

The Lions will face the Stormers in Cape Town, and while Stuart Hogg is to wear the armband after completing a period of isolation, Jones will be available from the bench.

Gatland said: "It's an important game as it's the final chance for the coaching group to see the players perform prior to the start of the Test series.

"For the matchday 23 it's their last opportunity to stake a claim for a Test place, so I expect to see a highly motivated group of players.

"It is particularly pleasing to be able to name Stuart Hogg in the squad. He's not had much luck on Lions tours to date, so it'll be great to see him cross the whitewash again with the captain's armband."

Robbie Henshaw comes into the midfield after shaking off a hamstring injury and Josh Adams returns after the birth of his daughter saw him ruled out of Wednesday's narrow defeat to South Africa A.

Marcus Smith, who recently won his first England cap, will debut at fly-half, and Gatland is particularly excited to see the Harlequins talent in action.

"I'm delighted that Marcus will get his first start in a Lions jersey," Gatland said. "I've been really impressed with his attitude since coming into camp this week; he's been like a sponge for information.

"Obviously it's a tight turnaround from Wednesday's game but we’re in pretty good shape. The South Africa 'A' game was a physical encounter – we always knew it would be – but we've come out of it pretty much intact and ready to go again."

Rugby World Cup-winning South Africa captain Siya Kolisi has officially signed with the Sharks.

Kolisi was at the weekend released from his contract with the Stormers, which had been due to expire in October, upon the acceptance of a transfer fee.

The 29-year-old flanker was expected to join Durban-based franchise the Sharks and that move was confirmed on Wednesday.

Kolisi made 118 Super Rugby appearances in his 11 years with the Stormers, for whom only Schalk Burger (123) managed more.

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