All Black injury toll mounts as Barrett sits out Hurricanes win
As Paul O'Connell and Graham Henry leant their voices to the ever-increasing choir of former players and coaches unhappy with the Lions' lack of preparation time and bruising schedule, the All Blacks' injury worries continued to mount.
The tourists depart for New Zealand this morning and play their first game against the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday, the first of 10 matches in six weeks that takes in all five Super Rugby sides, the Maori, and three Tests against the double world champions.
Few are giving them a shot at success, but quietly the concerns are building for Steve Hansen.
World Player of the Year Beauden Barrett is the latest worry after a mystery headache forced him to miss the Hurricanes' win over the Bulls of Pretoria at the weekend.
The franchise say Barrett passed a Head Injury Assessment at half-time of the Cheetahs game and showed no symptoms until the team landed in Johannesburg.
Team doctors are reported to be considering that altitude or travel issues may have helped bring about the headaches.
His 'Canes team-mate Dane Coles is also out with concussion issues right now, while Hansen is already sweating on the fitness of his captain Kieran Read and back-row colleague Jerome Kaino, as well as wingers Nehe Milner-Skudder and Israel Dagg.
However, Hansen's problems will do little to ease the burden on Warren Gatland's shoulders even though his contingent playing in the Premiership and PRO12 finals and the European play-off came through the weekend unscathed and linked up with the squad in London yesterday ahead of their departure.
"It is certainly the most difficult itinerary in the history of the game," former Lions and All Black head coach Henry reflected.
"I don't know who arranges these things but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a coach or a player.
"I just hope it doesn't impact on the tour, these are the best two teams in the world. Rugby needs this to be a real contest."