Alun Wyn Jones will captain a daring British and Irish Lions side to face South Africa after making their sensational comeback from injury.
Less than four weeks ago, Lock Wales suffered a shoulder dislocation against Japan at Murrayfield and looked set to miss the entire Tour.
However, in a huge boost to Warren Gatland and his coaching staff, the veteran is not just available for selection – he will start against World Cup holders in Cape Town on Saturday.
The Springboks named a physical squad for the first test, but Gatland seems content to outgrow the opposition by naming a bold squad that includes plenty of form players rather than established names.
Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and number eight Jack Conan beat Jamie George and Toby Faletau to their respective positions, although they were less distinguished options.
George and Faletau were the holders of the 2017 New Zealand tour, but cannot even secure seats on the bench.
Gatland’s counter-current streak is even more evident in the backline chosen to face the Springboks in the first of three tests that will take place in Cape Town.
He went for Stuart Hogg’s company at the back, even though his selection comes with risks, rather than bench Liam Williams, also a 2017 Lion Test.
Elliot Daly is chosen at the center away – his favorite position where he has only started once for England – to forge a partnership in midfield with Robbie Henshaw, who is starting despite having only done so. ‘only one appearance since he strained a hamstring last month.
Duhan Van Der Merwe has tormented defenses throughout the tour and is given the go-ahead on the left wing, but there is no room in the 23 for prolific try-scorer Josh Adams, who has crossed eight times in South Africa.
And in another nod to events in the run-up to the Test Series, Ali Price edged out Conor Murray at mid-scrum as a reward for his greater energy and drive in attack.
Gatland has chosen a team to play with pace and ambition, making it clear that the Lions’ game plan is to beat the world champions, who have largely stayed true to their proven World Cup winning XV.