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Saturday, 30 May 2009

Lions facing injury doubts

The curse of the 2009 Lions tour continues as Stephen Ferris and Andy Powell are now doubtful for the match tomorrow.

We've already seen Quinlan, O'Leary, Flannery and Halfpenney suffer injuries or suspensions. In reality Alan Quinlan was never going to start the Test matches but Flannery's partnership with O'Connell and his robust play had put him in pole position for hooker in the Test matches. O'Leary's defence, solid kicking game and underrated sniping runs would have at least guaranteed him a place on the bench for the Test matches. Halfpenney's injury will not count against the Lions as severly as his replacement, James Hook, should have been in the squad in the first place and he offers some magic this Lions squad was lacking at half back in the original squad. Halfpenney won't push for a Test place but the experience will make him a player to fear in next year's Six Nations.

Quinlan's suspension was deserved and the English press's clamouring for Tom Croft has seen him called up as his replacement. Croft's pace is unequalled among the forwards in the Guinness Premiership and he will flourish on the hard grounds in South Africa. However the resevations about his abiltiy to match the physicality of the Springboks remain.

Ferris, if fit, should start the Test matches. While he was lauded for his defence in the Six Nations he is only second to the evergreen David Wallace in terms of pace in the forwards of the Irish squad and his soft hands, shown in Luke Fitzgearld's first try against Italy, remanants of his schooldays at centre will benefit the Lions immensely.

Powell is in South Africa for his bullocking runs but needs another dimension to his play to seriously challenge Jamie Heaslip. On the evidence of the Six Nations Heaslip will start at No. 8 and will come back with the distinction of the best No. 8 in the Northern Hemisphere.

Hopefully both players will pull through and play a starring role tomorrow but there is a ready made replacement for Powell in Ryan Jones whereas there is no blindside flanker to match Ferris in McGeehan's phone book.


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