Wednesday 13 December 2017

Lions hopeful trio will return for final showdown with Wallabies

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

Duncan Bech

The British and Irish Lions are hopeful that Jamie Roberts, Mike Phillips and Alex Corbisiero will be passed fit for Saturday's series decider against Australia at ANZ Stadium.

Wales duo Roberts and Phillips have hamstring and knee injuries respectively while England prop Corbisiero is troubled by a calf problem with a decision on their availability expected when the team is announced tomorrow.


"We're hoping that they will be ready. The final decision won't be taken until tomorrow," tour manager Andy Irvine said.


"They are all making good progress. The medics are reasonably hopeful."


The Lions are reeling from the loss of Sam Warburton for Saturday's climax to the series after the openside was ruled out with a hamstring injury sustained in the 16-15 defeat in Melbourne.


It was a significant setback to Warburton and the Lions given the Wales openside's magnificent performance in the second Test - until he was helped from the pitch in the second half.


Either Sean O'Brien or Justin Tipuric will be selected in the number seven jersey with Brian O'Driscoll expected to take the captaincy.


"It's a serious blow because Sam started the tour with a knee injury but got better as the tour progressed," Irvine said.


"In the first half he was the outstanding player on the park. He's extremely disappointed that he's not available.


"On the positive side we're fortunate that it's one of the positions where we have tremendous reserve strength.


"We feel for Sam, he's been a super captain and role model to the lads. Hopefully we can go out and win the third Test for him."


Irvine dismissed criticism from Sir Clive Woodward that the Lions' decision to spend the aftermath of their defeat in Melbourne at Sunshine Coast holiday resort Noosa was ill-judged.


Woodward stated in a newspaper column that the Lions would have been better served by heading straight for Sydney rather than spending four nights at their seaside retreat.


"I've been on five Lions tours now and believe me after the second Test the boys are physically and mentally exhausted. They need a break," Irvine said.


"This place has been absolutely fabulous. We've not had the best of luck with the weather, but today was a bit better. The lads have had a great time.


"They need to recharge the batteries and where better to do that than here. If we had our time again we'd come back here.


"It's back to the hard work tomorrow because on Saturday we have one of the most vital matches the Lions have played in a long, long time."


Australia have been lifted by the availability of captain James Horwill for the third Test after an appeal into his alleged stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones was not upheld.


"It's irrelevant as far as we're concerned," Irvine said.


"In my opinion it didn't look very clever but I've seen a hell of a lot worse cases in my time.


"The judicial officer looked at all the replays. It's history now and water under the bridge."


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