Conor Murray was last night appointed as new captain of the British and Irish Lions after Alun Wyn Jones’ tour was ended by injury.
The Ireland scrum-half is a totally left-field selection and gets the job ahead of Owen Farrell and Stuart Hogg, skippers of England and Scotland respectively.
Ken Owens, who took over the armband when Jones was forced off against Japan with a dislocated shoulder, was also overlooked.
Team boss Warren Gatland said: ”Conor is an outstanding rugby player and is held in the highest regard with both the players and coaches.
“As a three-time Lions tourist, he knows what will be required as captain and I am certain he will lead the squad with excellence. He will also be well supported by an experienced leadership group.”
A nightmare day for Gatland saw Justin Tipuric join Jones in being ruled out of the eight-game South Africa tour, also with shoulder damage. Welsh forward duo Adam Beard and Josh Navidi were called up.
The loss of Jones, the world’s most capped player, is huge in symbolic terms as much as for his world class playing ability.
Such a totemic figure would have commanded instant respect in the home of the world champions.
Jones put on a brave face at Murrayfield as he returned to the pitch to collect the trophy awarded to the Lions for their four-tries-to-one triumph.
Gatland then crushed any lingering hope his skipper might have had by confirming he would return home to Wales and not fly with the squad today to South Africa.
“It’s very disappointing,” Gatland said. “Alun Wyn has been around rugby long enough but he’s going to be gutted.”
Almost lost in an afternoon of high emotion was a tidy start for the Lions, who were too clever by half for Japan with fly-half Dan Biggar superb at the controls.
Josh Adams, who had missed Wales’ visit to Edinburgh in March after breaching Covid protocols, ensured a happy return by scoring the first try with the sharpest of footwork.
Fellow wing Duhan van der Merwe followed him over soon after, picking up at the base of a ruck and powering over on the short side.
And when Robbie Henshaw cut a peach of a line, accelerating onto a crash ball, the Lions were 21 points up and playing particularly well given the concerns for their skipper.
Courtney Lawes might have extended the lead, only to lose control of the ball in the act of touching down.
But Tadhg Beirne made no mistake on 49 minutes when spotting a half-gap in Japan’s defence, picking a super line and bursting through and clear from 25 metres.
Gatland will be worried that the Lions then rather switched off, allowing Japan to score 10 points and finish the stronger.
But of far greater concern is the loss of Jones, who in every respect is going to take some replacing.
LIONS – Tries: Adams, Van der Merwe, Henshaw, Beirne. Cons: Biggar 4.
JAPAN – Try: Himeno. Con: Tamura. Pen: Tamura.