x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Lions set for Royal ascent

Even with a starting line-up that includes 11 players from the same province, South Africa's Royal XV are likely struggle against the British and Irish Lions today.

Even with a starting line-up that includes 11 players from the same province, South Africa's Royal XV are likely struggle against the British and Irish Lions today. The Lions' opening match of their three-Test tour sees head coach Ian McGeechan go with the experienced duo of Scotland's Mike Blair at scrum-half and Irish veteran Ronan O'Gara at fly-half at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

"Training has been good. It has been necessary to get patterns and systems in place. I feel it is a relief that side of things is now done," said Blair. "It's about four different countries, people coming together and playing like a team as if you've known each other for years. That's what Lions tours are all about." Part of the plan to beat South Africa seems to be built around matching their forwards, and McGeechan has shown his hand early with a powerful front row built around giant loosehead prop Andrew Sheridan. With veteran Simon Shaw joining Lions captain Paul O'Connell of Ireland in the second row,

The Royal XV are unlikely to be able to live with that strength or pace, but one thing working in the home team's favour will be the conditions. Rustenburg is normally dry and dusty in early winter, providing a stark contrast for the Lions emerging from a European winter. There are also two other rugby union internationals today. England's Martin Corry and Josh Lewsey end their carerrs against the Barbarians at Twickenham, while Wales play Canada in Toronto.

In rugby league, there two quarter-finals in the Challenge Cup, with holders St Helens visiting Gateshead and Hull KR facing Warrington. In Australia's NRL, St George/Illawarra moved to the top of the table after a 38-10 victory over Penrith. * With agencies