Monday 23 October 2017

Boost for Lions as Jamie Roberts nearing full fitness

British & Irish Lions Jamie Roberts during training
British & Irish Lions Jamie Roberts during training

Duncan Bech

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland has revealed that centre Jamie Roberts may be involved in Saturday's second Test against Australia.

Roberts missed yesterday's 23-21 victory over the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium because of a hamstring injury, but the Wales centre could figure in selection when the series resumes in Melbourne.

 

"We don't think Jamie is too far away. He's up and running and is potentially available for next weekend," Gatland said.

 

The news continues a positive series of medical bulletins that has seen Manu Tuilagi and Tommy Bowe regain fitness for the second Test.

 

Tuilagi, who has been sidelined with a shoulder problem, starts Tuesday's match against the Melbourne Rebels at outside centre while Tommy Bowe has been given a clean bill of health following hand surgery.

 

Gatland paid tribute to the Lions' medical team with the tourists close to declaring a clean bill of health.

 

Remarkably, only Roberts and prop Alex Corbisiero, who has a tight calf, have question marks hanging over their fitness with the rehabilitation of Bowe and wing George North completed well ahead of schedule.

 

"The first prognosis of George North was that he would definitely be out of the first Test, so the medical team have done a fantastic job getting those guys back fit," Gatland said.

 

"To have Tommy and Manu fit and back is a great compliment to the medical staff.

 

"Tommy's fit for Saturday, he's running, but the more time he has to heal the better.

 

"The surgeon said that that injury is normally a six-to-eight-week injury, so to be fit in three weeks is magnificent. It's important not to risk him on Tuesday."

 

England lock Geoff Parling will lead the Lions against the Melbourne Rebels at AAMI Park on Tuesday night.

 

Parling takes the captaincy from Rory Best, who drops to the bench following his poor performance in last week's 14-12 defeat by the Brumbies in Canberra - the Lions' only defeat in seven matches on tour.

 

The whole bench from yesterday's victory against Australia is involved against the Rebels, although none of the starting XV feature.

 

"We've picked a really strong side with guys who were on the bench last night getting a chance to start," Gatland said.

 

"We thought it was important to pick a team that can do a job for us following on last night's result.

 

"There's still a chance for performances to really catch the eye. We won't think about Test selection until after the match.

 

"The Brumbies loss was a wake-up call and it will be nice to take more momentum into the second Test."

 

Gatland admitted there were shortcomings in the Lions' performance at the Suncorp Stadium last night, but has taken comfort from the injury toll Australia have endured.

 

"We know the performance wasn't brilliant, but it's all about the result," he said.

 

"For both sides it was about sparring, finding out information about each other.

 

"I'm not sure how much we found out. There were some positive things and some things for us to work on.

 

"Australia took bit of a battering last night with injuries and we're in a good place at the moment."

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