By Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent
The British and Irish Lions have picked six Irish players to start Saturday’s historic home international against Japan.
Tadhg Beirne and Jack Conan make their debuts under Welsh captain Alun Wyn Jones in the opener in Edinburgh, while Conor Murray, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki and Iain Henderson also get the nod for the starting XV.
The Murrayfield showdown that is being staged the day before the squad departs for South Africa is only the third Lions fixture on home soil and the first against Japan.
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The two Irish debutants are among eight fresh faces, which also includes Scotland’s Hamish Watson.
With no English starters, Warren Gatland has filled his bench with Owen Farrell, Jamie George and Anthony Watson, while Tadhg Furlong also sits in wait.
A crowd of 16,500 will attend the clash in Edinburgh that serves as the curtain raiser to the eight-game tour of South Africa.
“We’re anticipating a tough game against Japan – a side that like to play at a high-tempo and shift the ball,” Gatland said.
“We saw throughout the World Cup they have attacking threats across the park and a solid defence and set-piece.
“I’m pleased with the progress we’ve made during our training camp in Jersey so far, but we’ve got a long way to go.
“You can see that the squad are starting to get to grips with our game strategies but as always with a Lions tour, this takes time to bed in.
“We’re in a good place though and I can tell there’s a lot more to come from this group.
“Everyone in the squad will get a start before the start of the Test series, so each member of the squad can put their hand up for Test selection.
“We are absolutely delighted to be playing in front of 16,000 supporters in Edinburgh. I’m sure the crowd will give the players an enormous lift before we depart for South Africa on Sunday.”