A pre-Tour match between the British & Irish Lions and Japan at Murrayfield, Edinburgh, for the Vodafone Lions 1888 Cup.
It is the first-ever clash between the world’s greatest touring side and the Brave Blossoms and will raise the curtain for the Lions’ eagerly-awaited trip to South Africa after it was confirmed the tour will go ahead.
Murrayfield will host only the third Lions Test match on ‘home’ soil, following games in Cardiff against Argentina in 2005 and a Rest of the World XV in 1986.
Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, views the fixture as an important opportunity to fast-track preparations for the three-Test series against the Springboks, given that the tour has already been shortened by two games from the tour of New Zealand in 2017.
When is it?
Saturday, June 26.
What time is kick-off?
What TV channel is it on?
Live coverage of the Lions will return to terrestrial television for the first time in nearly 30 years with this pre-Tour Test match against Japan.
The rest of the tour will be on Sky. However, highlights of all three Tests against South Africa will be on Channel 4 while All4 will show highlights of ALL the Lions Tour matches.
Lions Tour 2021 full fixtures
Here’s the latest schedule, all BST:
- Saturday, June 26… Japan… Murrayfield… Channel 4… KO TBC
- Saturday, July 3… Lions… Johannesburg… Sky Sports… KO 5pm
- Wednesday, July 7… Sharks… Johannesburg… Sky Sports… KO 7pm
- Saturday, July 10… Bulls… Pretoria… Sky Sports… KO 5pm
- Wednesday, July 14… South Africa ‘A’… Cape Town… Sky Sports… KO 7pm
- Saturday, July 17… Stormers… Cape Town… Sky Sports… KO 5pm
- Saturday, July 24 (1st Test)… South Africa… Cape Town… Sky Sports… KO 5pm
- Saturday, July 31 (2nd Test)… South Africa… Johannesburg… Sky Sports… KO 5pm
- Saturday, August 7 (3rd Test)… South Africa… Johannesburg… Sky Sports… KO 5pm
What is the latest squad/team news?
Sam Simmonds has been named in a British and Irish Lions squad that is captained by Alun Wyn Jones, but Kyle Sinckler and Johnny Sexton are among several high-profile omissions.
Simmonds, the Exeter No 8 and current European player of the year, has been picked by Warren Gatland despite being consistently overlooked by England since winning the last of his seven caps in 2018.
He is joined in the squad bound for South Africa this summer by fellow bolters Bundee Aki of Ireland and Scotland’s Chris Harris, with Manu Tuilagi left out as he approaches his comeback from an Achilles injury.
The 37-strong group is led by Jones, the 35-year-old Ospreys forward who captained Wales to the Six Nations title in March.
Jones, who embarks on a fourth successive Lions tour, has clocked up a world record 157 Tests for Wales and the Lions.
He was the favourite for the role ahead of other potential contenders like England internationals Maro Itoje and Owen Farrell.
While all other home union captains feature – Farrell and Scotland’s Stuart Hogg are included as well as Jones – Ireland skipper Sexton is unable to force his way into the squad, as are Sinckler, Jonathan Davies, Sam Underhill and Josh Navidi.
Sexton finished the Six Nations strongly but has suffered ongoing concussion problems since.
Sinckler made his name on the 2017 tour to New Zealand and was viewed as odds-on to be in Test contention once more following a strong Six Nations, yet he is missing.
Davies was expected to travel to South Africa, especially after Wales team-mate George North was ruled out by a knee injury, but in a surprise move Aki and Harris are preferred.
Another of Wayne Pivac’s Six Nations champions in Navidi has failed to win a place in the ferociously competitive back row positions, but Jack Conan of Ireland and Scotland’s Hamish Watson are present.
Underhill missed the Six Nations because of a hip injury but his stopping power in defence was thought to be enough to secure his spot, while Billy Vunipola has paid the price for his poor form.
Farrell, Dan Biggar and Finn Russell will compete for the fly-half jersey, but Danny Care has failed to make the cut as a bolter.
Why not put yourself in Gatland’s shoes and pick your Lions 23 with our team builder below…
Japan will face the Lions with a squad that includes 19 players who helped the Brave Blossoms to the quarter-finals of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Head coach Jamie Joseph has announced a 36-man party to play a warm-up match against former Super Rugby team the Sunwolves on June 12 before facing the Lions at Murrayfield on June 26 and Ireland at Dublin on July 3.
The squad, captained by World Cup skipper Michael Leitch, includes 23 capped players with a total of 476 Test caps. It also contains 16 players who took part in the Japan Top League club final on Sunday, including seven from the champion Panasonic Wild Knights.
Japan are ranked 10th in the world but beat Ireland and Scotland on their way to the RWC quarter-finals before losing to eventual champion South Africa.
Forwards: Keita Inagaki, Asaeli Ai Valu, Shinnosuke Kakinaga, Jiwon Koo, Craig Millar, Yukio Morikawa, Atsushi Sakate, Shunta Nakamura, Kosuke Horikoshi, Mark Abbot, Wimpie van der Walt, Uwe Helu, James Moore, Naoki Ozawa, Ben Gunter, Jack Cornelsen, Pieter Labushagne, Michael Leitch (captain), Tevita Tatafu, Amanaki Lelei, Kazuki Himendo
Back: Koki Arai, Naoto Saito, Kaito Shigeno, Yu Tamura, Rikiya Matsuda, Shota Emi, Siosaia Fifita, Semisi Masirewa, Kotaro Matsushima, Lomano Lava Lemeki, Shane Gates, Ryoto Nakamura, Timothy Lafaele, Gerhard vand den Heever, Ryohei Yamanaka
Lions warm-up fixture to have 16,500 fans in attendance
The Lions have announced that 16,500 supporters will be able to attend the team’s warm-up fixture against Japan, the first time supporters will have watched a Test at Murrayfield since March 2020.
Owing to the reduced capacity following the application of agreed social distancing measures within the stadium, a number of ticketholders will, unfortunately, not be permitted to attend and will be refunded.
Ben Calveley, Managing Director of Lions, said: “I am sure it will give the entire touring party an enormous boost to play this fixture in front of Lions fans.
“We are very grateful to the Scottish Government for its commitment and support to ensure this fixture would be seen by a live audience.”
“This is an important first step to bring fans back to BT Murrayfield Stadium and a return to normality,” commented Scottish Rugby Chief Executive, Mark Dodson.
“Through the positive working relationship, we have developed with both Scottish Government and key local partners we are confident we will offer a safe environment for every supporter and look forward to playing our part in hosting this unique sporting occasion and welcoming rugby fans back to Edinburgh.”