Thursday 14 December 2017

Lions awaiting news on Cian Healy injury and possible Conor Murray suspension

Andrew Baldock

The British and Irish Lions faced an anxious wait on three separate counts today regarding an injury and possible suspensions.

Ireland prop Cian Healy was carried off and taken to hospital for an X-ray on his ankle during the 69-17 victory over Western Force at Patersons Stadium.

Although his ankle is not broken, there are fears he has suffered ligament damage which could mean the end of his tour.

Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan, meanwhile, made a biting allegation during the game against an unnamed Lions player, and Sheehan's opposite number Conor Murray could be in trouble for an alleged stamping incident.

Match citing officer Freek Burger asked Sheehan to provide him with a statement after the game, while the Murray incident is also being looked at. Any decisions are likely to be announced later today.

On Healy, Lions head coach Warren Gatland said: "They've just said it is not broken but they think it is ligament damage, so we will just have to wait for 24-48 hours and see what happens.

Connor Murray (L) is tackled by Brett Sheehan
Connor Murray (L) is tackled by Brett Sheehan
Cian Healy is treated on the pitch after sustaining an injury during the game

"He went for an X-ray and it wasn't broken. We just assume it is ligament damage. He may need to have a scan to further delve into the potential of the injury.

"We've got (loosehead) Gethin Jenkins, who will start on Saturday (against Queensland Reds). Gethin is back training fully.

"We will potentially talk about someone tonight that we may bring out once we have found out what sort of condition Cian is in and they've had a chat to him."

If Healy has to be replaced then the choice would appear to lie between England's Alex Corbisiero, who is currently on tour in Argentina, Scotland's Ryan Grant and Welshman Paul James.

Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll said: "I understand how hard people work towards getting on this tour.

"If it is the end of his tour, it is bitterly disappointing. You wait and hope over the next 24 hours that it is not as bad as first perceived."

Asked about the alleged biting, Gatland told reporters: "I know as much as you know. I think the citing guy has had a look at it and he can't see anything."

The game was held up while television match official Glenn Newman looked at replays from different angles of any alleged offence, but nothing materialised from that footage.

And Force head coach Michael Foley refused to elaborate on it at his post-match press conference, saying only: "It was dealt with by the referee at the time."

The post-match business took some gloss of an efficient Lions display that saw them score nine tries and full-back Leigh Halfpenny deliver a goalkicking masterclass by scoring 24 points from nine conversions and two penalties.

O'Driscoll claimed two touchdowns and he was followed over the Force line by Jonathan Sexton, Tommy Bowe, Jamie Heaslip, Tom Croft, Mako Vunipola, Owen Farrell and Geoff Parling.

In two games so far on tour against the Barbarians and Force, the Lions have scored 128 points and 17 tries.

"We spoke at half-time about making sure we played for the full 80 minutes and to keep going," Gatland said. "It was pleasing that we came out after half-time, scored pretty quickly and kept the tempo up.

"Ideally, we would like to be playing against the strongest sides that we possibly can, and if we can't then we are going to have to replicate some of it in training.

"It's something we learnt from 2009. We arrived at that first Test against South Africa thinking we were in pretty good nick and it was a big step up. I don't think we will get caught this time.

"We've just got to be aware of the opposition we are playing, and if we do have victories like tonight that we don't get too carried away with it.

"We've got players who can get across the gain-line. If we can get quick ball and the forwards can get us on the front foot as well, then we have got the potential to be really dangerous.

"It was about us today. I wasn't worrying about the opposition. I think we are going to get a tougher game against the Reds on Saturday."

Foley, who has a Super Rugby game to prepare his players for this weekend against NSW Waratahs, was complimentary towards the Lions.

"We played against a Test-match standard team," he said. "They have got a lot of big powerful men, particularly (Manu) Tuilagi and (George) North. Once they get a line-break it is very hard to stop them.

"They have an outstanding scrum and a tricky lineout. When you get a group of skillful players together it's about building that momentum. Each time they play they will get better and better.

"I see it as being a very close Test series (against Australia). We were very fortunate to get across the line and win the Lions series 12 years ago."

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