Thursday 14 December 2017

Twelvetrees call-up sparks injury concern for Gatland's marquee men

Twelvetrees: Lions call-up
Twelvetrees: Lions call-up
Conor George

Conor George

ARE the Lions hiding an injury concern regarding one of their key performers? A late night call-up for England centre Billy Twelvetrees as cover has sparked fears the Lions are worried about injuries to specific players.

A text message was sent at 12.30am Australian time informing the press corps of Twelvetrees' call-up and while it was immediately denied that he is being brought out as cover for any specific individual, fears are growing that Brian O'Driscoll, Jonathan Sexton or Owen Farrell might be a concern.

All three have shipped knocks in recent weeks and Twelvetrees' ability to play in the centre or at out-half has led to speculation that the fitness of one of that trio is concerning the management.

Sexton complained of a tight hamstring in the win over Queensland Reds and Farrell suffered a dead-leg in the same game. Neither player was risked in Tuesday's facile win over Combined Country in Newcastle.

O'Driscoll did "do the splits" in that game but afterwards insisted he was in good shape and, according to a Lions spokesman, the Ireland international took a full part in yesterday's recovery session when the squad arrived in Sydney.

The Lions are insisting that Twelvetrees' call-up is simply to provide cover and afford them the opportunity to rest some players as the opening Test draws closer.

"The nature of a Lions tour means that there will inevitably be knocks which take time to recover from," said Lions coach Warren Gatland.

"The whole squad have worked hard but a lot of the backs have doubled up over the last two games, either starting or from the bench. Billy played well in the first Test for England and he provides versatility to cover a variety of positions."

The England and Gloucester centre flew out from Argentina yesterday and will arrive in Sydney tomorrow.

The timing of the announcement of Twelvetrees – the email landed at 12.39am on Thursday morning in Australia (3.39pm Irish time yesterday) – is curious, as surely the decision to bring out a player, currently in Argentina with his national side, was made earlier in the evening.

That, and the fact that vital players O'Driscoll and Sexton have shown some discomfort of late, is a cause for concern.

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