Lions play down Sexton injury concerns
June 10, 2013
Ireland's Jonathan Sexton is considered favourite to lay claim to the Lions' No.10 jersey for the Test series against Australia © Getty Images
British & Irish Lions assistant coach Andy Farrell has attempted to ease fears that fly-half Jonathan Sexton is a major injury concern ahead of the eagerly-anticipated Test series against Australia later this month.
The Irishman suffered a tightening of his hamstring in the wake of Lions hard-fought victory over the Reds on Saturday prompting reports that he may have suffered a reoccurrence of the injury that sidelined him earlier this season.
Sexton, the favourite to lay claim to the No.10 jersey in the Test side, is one of only two recognised fly-halves in the Lions' squad, and with the other option - England's Owen Farrell - also suffering from a dead leg picked up in the same bruising clash in Brisbane. But Farrell insists both players are on course to be fit for the 1st Test showdown at the Suncorp Stadium on June 22.
"It's in the nature of the game of rugby that people get little bumps and tweaks," Farrell said ahead of the Lions' latest clash against a Combined Country XV in Newcastle on Tuesday night. "Both Jonny and Owen are fine, though. We're taking all the right precautions, but there's no issue with either of them."
Both Sexton and Farrell sat out the Lions' latest training session today and neither will feature against the Combined Country XV with Scotland fullback Stuart Hogg handed the No.10 jersey.
There is no recognised fly-half cover on the bench with either fullback Leigh Halfpenny and centre Jonathan Davies expected to step into the role should Hogg be injured. Following this latest scare, head coach Warren Gatland is aware of the need to protect his playmakers.
"The (Sexton) scan showed that there is no tear, just that it is a little bit tight," said Gatland. "Given that both fly-halves have been involved in every game, we are at the stage where we have to look after them and give them an opportunity for a rest. That's why neither fly-half is involved on Tuesday."
Gatland's side tackle the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday before travelling to Canberra to tackle the Brumbies the following Tuesday in their last outing before the 1st Test. The proximity of the latter game to their date with the Wallabies suggests Gatland will opt for his strongest side against the Tahs with a fit-again Sexton expected to lead the line and Farrell to provide cover on the bench.
The Lions' boss admitted to The Daily Telegraph that he would have liked more preparation time ahead of the Test battle. "Ideally we'd have had another couple of warm-up games but we need now to start thinking about the Waratahs and putting together combinations ahead of the first Test," Gatland said.
"In an ideal world you would not have experimented as much as we did against Queensland. Our original thought was to look at Tuesday and then back players up but that hasn't been possible."
There was also positive news regarding fullback Rob Kearney who is the only member of the original 37-man squad still in Australia who has not yet featured. Farrell reported that the Irishman has shaken off his own hamstring concerns and trained fully today with a first tour appearance likely against the Waratahs.
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