Rugby Union: Hastings should be fit for Test

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The Independent Online
THE Lions yesterday breathed a sigh of relief as strong as the wind off the Cook Strait when they learned that their captain, Gavin Hastings, would be fit for Saturday's second Test in Wellington, writes Steve Bale.

Hastings went off at half-time against Auckland with a hamstring twinge, which the tour management yesterday insisted was so localised that, with treatment, their captain was in no danger of missing the match.

'We are fully confident that he will be there to lead the Lions out,' Ian McGeechan, the coach, said. The importance of Hastings to the Lions cannot be exaggerated. One-nil down in the three-Test series, they must win to stay in contention.

Disturbed at the Lions' narrow miss in Christchurch, the New Zealand selectors yesterday made three changes of personnel and one of position - drastic surgery for the All Blacks. John Kirwan, two stones lighter after an off-season in Italy, was recalled, with Eroni Clarke moving from wing to inside centre in place of injured Walter Little.

Jon Preston for Anthony Strachan at scrum-half and the 6ft 9in Mark Cooksley for Ian Jones at lock are the other changes, the latter marking a dramatic fall from grace for one of the most consistent of recent All Blacks. Cooksley excelled for the Maoris against the Lions and his height against Martin Bayfield's 6ft 10in is now deemed essential.

The Lions will be making changes of their own, the most striking of which will be Scott Gibbs's replacement of the England captain, Will Carling, at inside centre. Carling injured a shoulder against Auckland and, though selected, is doubtful for tomorrow's match against Hawke's Bay in Napier.

If he has to withdraw, his Test place will be as good as gone. 'If he doesn't play it's going to make it difficult for us to consider him,' Geoff Cooke, the Lions manager, conceded last night. Of the tourists' other casualties, Mike Teague is fully recovered from a thigh injury and Mick Galwey is 85 per cent recovered from a dead leg.

Hawke's Bay finished eighth of nine in last season's New Zealand First Division, staying up by one place. A measure of the threat facing the Lions is the comparison between their opponents' most recent match, a Ranfurly Shield challenge against Auckland which they lost 69-31, and the Lions' 23-18 defeat at Eden Park on Saturday.

HAWKE'S BAY: J Cunningham; A Hamilton, G Konia, M Paewai, P Davis; S Kerr, N Weber; T Taylor, N Hewitt (capt), O Crawford, J Fowler, W Davison, D Watts, S Tremain, G Falcon.

BRITISH ISLES: A Clement (Wales); R Wallace, V Cunningham (Ireland), W Carling, T Underwood; S Barnes (England, capt), R Jones (Wales); P Wright, K Milne (Scotland), J Leonard (England), D Cronin, A Reed (Scotland), M Teague (England), M Galwey (Ireland), R Webster (Wales). Replacements: J Guscott, R Andrew, D Morris (England), P Burnell (Scotland), B Moore, M Johnson (England).

Referee: P O'Brien (Oamaru).

NEW ZEALAND (v British Isles, Wellington, 26 June): J Timu (Otago); J Kirwan (Auckland), F Bunce (North Harbour), E Clarke, V Tuigamala; G Fox (Auckland), J Preston (Wellington); C Dowd, S Fitzpatrick (capt), O Brown, R Brooke (Auckland), M Cooksley (Counties), J Joseph (Otago), Z Brooke, M Jones (Auckland). Replacements: M Cooper (Waikato), A Strachan (North Harbour), M Allen (Taranaki), G Dowd (North Harbour), I Jones (North Auckland), A Pene (Otago).