Rugby Union: Ireland lose their third Lion in Miller

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The Independent Online
Eric Miller has become the third Lion to pull out of Ireland's international against Canada at Lansdowne Road tomorrow.

The Leicester No 8 has been struggling with ankle ligament damage and finally admitted defeat yesterday and joins fellow Lions Keith Wood and Jeremy Davidson on the sidelines. Ireland's only surviving Lion from the trip to South Africa is the Saracens prop Paul Wallace.

With Wood absent the captaincy is handed to a Lion of older vintage, Nick Popplewell, while Victor Costello comes straight into the side to replace Miller, with Eddie Halvey staying on the replacements' bench.

"Miller's loss is a blow to us," said the Irish team manager, Pat Whelan. "We've now lost three out of our four Lions this year. And if you add up all the knocks and injuries we have I think 11 players are unavailable for selection.

"From a small country that's a big hole in our pool."

Ireland may be odds-on favourite but their injury worries and the strength and fitness of the Canadians has given Whelan plenty to think about.

"They have an Irish coach who knows our players and style intimately," he said, referring to the Cork-born Pat Parfrey, a one-cap Irish international against the 1974 All Blacks and now a doctor in New Foundland.

"We'll approach it in exactly the same way mentally as we approached the All Blacks game. The atmosphere and environment may be different but our approach won't be. It's a match we have to win."

Canada are at full strength having made 11 changes from the midweek side that lost 26-10 to Ireland A in Belfast on Wednesday night.

They are boosted by the return of their captain Gareth Rees, who has recovered from a stomach bug.

The Wasps fly-half is confident his side can make a lasting impression. "We can push Ireland," he said. "We almost beat Wales this summer and we're not here to make up the numbers."

IRELAND (v Canada, Lansdowne Road, tomorrow): K Nowlan (St Mary's); D Hickie (St Mary's), R Henderson (Wasps), B McCall (London Irish), K Maggs (Bristol); E Elwood (Galwegians), C McGuinness (St Mary's); N Popplewell (Newcastle, capt), R Nesdale (Newcastle), P Wallace (Saracens), P Johns (Saracens), M O'Kelly (London Irish), D Erskine (Sale), V Costello (St Mary's), K Dawson (London Irish). Replacements: D Humphreys (London Irish), N Hogan (London Irish), E Halvey (Shannon), J Cunningham (Ballymena), R Corrigan (Greystones), A Clarke (Northampton).

CANADA: J Stewart; J Pagano, D Lougheed, R Toews, W Stanley; G Rees (capt), J Graf; R Snow, M Cardinal, R Bice, J Tait, M James, M Schmid, J Hutchinson, A Charron. Replacements: B Ross, R Card, A Healy, C McKenzie, E Evans, K Morgan.