Mauled Lions hit by early fitness fears
BRITISH and Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan is today set to name a much-changed side for Wednesday’s second tour match, against Golden Lions.
McGeechan has been forced to shuffle his pack with a number of players already nursing injuries, just a week into the tour of South Africa. Centre Keith Earls, who made a disappointing debut in Saturday’s laboured 37-25 win over the Royal XV, is expected to miss out with a shoulder injury picked up in the tour opener. There are also doubts over scrum-half Mike Blair, who rolled his ankle, and centre Riki Flutey, who missed training yesterday with a slight strain.
Captain Paul O’Connell needed treatment on Saturday for an eye abrasion, fly-half Ronan O’Gara hurt his shoulder, Mike Phillips sustained a dead leg and prop Andrew Sheridan suffered blisters.
But there was better news yesterday for No8 Andy Powell and flanker Stephen Ferris, who both missed the weekend fixture. Powell is back in training following a hand problem while Ferris has recovered from a muscle strain he suffered getting off the team bus – which Lions doctor James Robson called “an early contender for bizarre injury of the tour.”
Meanwhile Earls, at 21 the youngest member of the squad, has been backed to learn from his error-strewn Lions bow.
Assistant coach Rob Howley said: “A Lions jersey can make you do funny things; it can make you 6ft 8in tall or it can make you go out there a drop the ball. Keith will be a much better player for that experience.”