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Rugby morning headlines as Alun Wyn Jones’ rival would welcome shock return and star ‘cements’ place in Lions Test XV

Here are your rugby morning headlines for Tuesday, July 13.

Maro Itoje would welcome AWJ back

England lock Maro Itoje says he would welcome Alun Wyn Jones back on the Lions tour in a heartbeat.

The Wales and Lions captain suffered a dislocated shoulder in the warm-up match with Japan up at Murrayfield before the tour started in earnest.

However, on Monday head coach Warren Gatland revealed Jones was back training with Wales and a decision is set to be made in the coming days.

READ MORE : Alun Wyn Jones on brink of stunning return to Lions squad

Gatland hinted that Jones could be jetted out to Cape Town for the Test series and that is certainly something Itoje, the Welshman’s second-row partner in New Zealand in 2017, could get on board with.

“Alun Wyn is a great player. He was our captain for this tour and we want the best players here,” Itoje said.

“He comes with a massive amount of experience. This is his fourth tour. He’s a great player and a great person to have around. If he’s fit and healthy, then it would be great to have him around.

“Initially everybody thought he was out. He thought himself that he was out! But all things can happen with hard work and preparation and dedication. He has that in abundance.

“If he’s able to come out, I’m sure the Lions will sort him out with a nice private jet and he’ll fly quickly straight over to Cape Town. If he’s here that will help our cause.”

Springboks big guns could make first Test

South Africa skipper Siya Kolisi and fly-half Handre Pollard could both return to the Springboks squad for the first Test against the Lions.

Both players are among a group of six players currently isolating in Johannesburg while the rest of the squad travelled to Cape Town, where the next three games of the Lions’ tour will be played.

But Springboks director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has said both players have a chance of making the first Test on July 24.

“There is a return to train and play protocol which we follow and depending on when they tested positive determines whether they can play,” he said.

“Siya, Frans Steyn and Handre Pollard might make it. There are some guys you know you can just slot into the team and some guys who take a little bit longer to get their engines going and be ready for a game.”

Josh Adams has ‘cemented his place’ in Test side

Josh Adams has done enough to already have earned a spot in the Lions’ starting XV for the Tests, Bryan Habana has claimed.

The Springboks legend has cast an eye over the players following their first games out in South Africa and believes Adams, along with Anthony Watson and ‘bolter’ Duhan van der Merwe should form Gatland’s back three.

“A big name for me, and we probably all saw him as a bolter originally, is Duhan van der Merwe,” he told Sky Sports.

“Gatland has got an incredibly difficult, but pleasing situation ahead in terms of who he selects for his back three.

“It looks as if Josh Adams has done enough to cement his place, whether on the left or right-wing, and I sort of feel that Anthony Watson moving to full-back this week is just Gatland looking at a bit of versatility.

“I initially had Stuart Hogg, Watson and Adams in my back-three, but I think Van der Merwe is not just knocking on the door but he’s banging it down at the moment with his performances.

“He’s done his reputation the world of good. Coming to the soil of his birth and putting in some fantastic efforts.”

The former wing also thinks Dan Biggar will be given the No.10 shirt.

“Dan Biggar for me at 10 probably wasn’t as impressive on Saturday, but I think he’s shown enough,” he added. “And then Owen Farrell has got credit in the bank.

“Wednesday’s game is going to be exciting because Bundee Aki is someone I think Gatland is looking to, to get that go-forward. And if you go back to 2013 and 2017 with the likes of Jamie Roberts and Ben Te’o, Gatland likes that direct 12 channel.

“The back three is the part that I lean to, and the resources at Gatland’s disposal are very impressive.”

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Mallia hit with three-game suspension

Argentina’s Juan Cruz Mallia has been suspended for three matches after his red card against Wales on Saturday.

He was sent off at the Principality Stadium for a dangerous tackle on Wales scrum-half Kieran Hardy, with the Pumas full-back having chased after a high ball and levelled the Scarlet, with his head coming into direct contact with Hardy’s face.

Referee Matt Carley gave Mallia his marching orders after reviewing the incident several times and consulting the TMO.

A statement from World Rugby on Monday read: “The player admitted that he had committed an act of foul play and accepted that it was worthy of a red card. The committee acknowledged the player’s admission that the act of foul play was a reckless act resulting in contact with the head of an opponent.

“The committee applied World Rugby’s mandatory minimum mid-range entry point for foul play resulting in contact with the head.

“This resulted in a starting point of a six-match suspension. Having acknowledged mitigating factors including the player’s clean disciplinary record, his admission of the act of foul play, and his demonstration of remorse, the committee reduced the six-match entry point by the maximum of three matches, meaning the player will miss the following matches: Wales v Argentina (17 July, 2021), South Africa v Argentina (14 August, 2021) and Argentina v South Africa (21 August, 2021).”

Mallia intends to complete World Rugby’s recently launched Head Contact Process Coaching Intervention Programme, and if completed would mean he would be available for the Pumas’ second Test against the Springboks.

England captain cited after Canada win

England flanker and stand-in captain Lewis Ludlow will face a disciplinary hearing after being cited for striking with the knee in Saturday’s 70-14 victory over Canada.

Ludlow, who was captaining the side for the second match in a row, struck the head of Canada front row Jake Ilnicki 30 minutes into the game at Twickenham.

The 26-year-old was sent to the sin-bin but the citing officer deemed the offence worthy of a red card.

Ludlow is now set for a virtual hearing on Thursday evening.

Ireland’s autumn schedule revealed

Ireland will play host to Japan, New Zealand and Argentina in this autumn’s international window.

Japan will visit Dublin on Saturday, November 6, followed by the All Blacks a week later, before the Test series is rounded off with a clash against the Pumas on Sunday, November 21.

The game against the All Blacks will be the first of four meetings between the countries next season, with Ireland set for a three-Test tour of New Zealand next summer.

It comes after the Irish were already scheduled to start their autumn against the USA in Las Vegas on October 30.

Head coach Andy Farrell said: “We have an exciting year of rugby ahead with an action packed autumn international window, the Six Nations Championship and a tour of New Zealand.”

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