Rowntree laments O'Connell loss
June 24, 2013
Paul O' Connell is one of the most experienced forwards in the Lions' squad © Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions are coming to terms with the massive loss of pack leader Paul O'Connell while also biting their tongue in frustration at the Wallabies' good fortune with influential second-rower James Horwill.
A clearly unimpressed Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree has refused to bite about Horwill's exoneration from a rucking charge just before Irish second-rower O'Connell was ruled out the rest of the Test series with a broken arm.
The former Lions captain is set to be replaced by in-form Englishman Geoff Parling in Saturday night's second Test at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium.
Parling has been withdrawn from the Lions' mid-week team to play the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday night, with Ian Evans starting in his place at lock and Welsh back-rower Dan Lydiate taking over the captaincy.
While Rowntree claimed the squad would be galvanised to overcome O'Connell's loss and they also had enough depth to cover it, he admitted he was a massive loss.
"He's such a big influence on the group and has been playing exceptionally well. But you have to get on with these things," said Rowntree, who admitted the 33-year-old might stay on tour to help with his leadership qualities.
"He was in the form of his life as well. I'd like him to stay on, but I'm not sure what he'll do. With the Lions, you just have to roll with the punches in terms of injuries and changes of personnel."
The Lions also have prop Alex Corbisiero (calf) in doubt for the second Test, where they can claim their first series triumph in 16 years.
The Wallabies injury toll from the 23-21 first Test loss was more severe, however, with backs Digby Ioane (shoulder), Berrick Barnes (head knock) and Pat McCabe (neck) ruled out, and Christian Lealiifano (concussion) and Adam Ashley-Cooper (shoulder) still in some doubt.
Paul O' Connell's leadership qualities will be sorely missed by the Lions in the second Test in Melbourne
"I think last weekend was an intense, brutal encounter and I think this weekend will be another level," Rowntree said. "It's certainly the way we are planning for it again. Our intensity and accuracy has to go up another couple of gears and I'm confident we can do that."
The Lions camp is known to be dismayed at Horwill being cleared of rucking Alun Wyn Jones at Suncorp Stadium but Rowntree said: "It's happened - we move on."
The forwards coach praised the resilience of the Wallabies scrum after they overcame a tough start to finish the night with two key wins at the set-piece which almost stole the game.
"I keep getting asked about this supposed weakness in the set piece for this nation but they're not surprising me at the moment," he said.
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