Earls the latest tour casualty as inquest into Irish selection process begins
Keith Earls has become the latest Irish player to miss out on this summer's tour when coach Declan Kidney confirmed yesterday what many of his former employers had known for some weeks.
Earls joins his Lions colleague Paul O'Connell on the summer casualty list with a similar groin problem which has lingered since the end of the Six Nations.
That has prompted speculation as to the wisdom of allowing both players to be included in the preliminary touring party at all.
As the injury-wracked party prepare to jet off following tonight's clash with the Barbarians in Limerick, there are tough questions being asked behind closed doors as to how the injuries to Earls and O'Connell, in particular, have been handled this season.
Kidney confirmed Earl's withdrawal in a brief unscheduled appearance at the pre-match press conference in Thomond Park.
"Keith has had to be withdrawn from the tour because the injury hasn't responded as much as we had hoped and he wouldn't have been able to play any games," said Kidney, who confirmed Connacht's Gavin Duffy as his replacement.
Asked whether Earls had ever stood a realistic chance of making tomorrow's flight, Kidney added: "There was a chance, like all injuries. You always live in hope in this job."
Assistant coach Alan Gaffney admitted that the withdrawal of last summer's Lions tourist was a significant blow.
"It is a big loss, he adds a lot of attacking potential. But Gavin is travelling, he's been around the block a number of times and been playing a lot of rugby this year.
"The injuries have been frustrating, it's just been one of those years. In the Six Nations before last, we utilised 23 players and had a fantastic time with injuries, but in the last while we've been unfortunate in that regard."