Rugby Union: Rodber will miss Lions' first match

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The Independent Online
The good rugby folk of Port Elizabeth will see even less of Tim Rodber tomorrow than they did on the England No 8's last visit in 1994. Indeed, the Boet Erasmus faithful will have to save their whistles, wise cracks and ego puncturing punchiness for someone else when the Lions embark in earnest on their 12th tour of South Africa by taking on an Eastern Province Invitation XV.

Rodber, sent off three years ago for his part in a night of unmitigated mayhem, pulled out of the Lions' line-up yesterday on the advice of James Robson, the team doctor. Gastro-enteritis was the diagnosis, a relatively mild case, but serious enough to weaken the Northampton captain markedly. "Under the circumstances, it would be fairly silly to play Tim in a game of this magnitude," Robson said.

Scott Quinnell, the Welshman who surfaced at Richmond at the start of last season following a high-profile sojourn in Rugby League, will fill the hole in the back row, thus emulating his father, Derek, and his uncle, Barry John, by becoming a Lion. If he turns out to be half as good as either when he pulls on the red shirt, the prospect of a series victory over the Springboks will brighten considerably.

"As a child I dreamed only of playing for Wales, but the Lions are recognised as an elite group and I'm delighted to be a part of it," he said on hearing of Rodber's temporary demise. "I'm pleased to have the opportunity of an early game but I won't be thinking too much about the family link. There is quite enough for me to concentrate on without that."

There is an outside possibility of further changes to the original selection. John Bentley, picked on the right wing, bruised a toe in training while Scott Gibbs, the Swansea centre who played two Tests on the 1993 tour of New Zealand, strained a thigh muscle. Both were on the treatment table yesterday.

The medical team confidently expect Paul Grayson, one of only two specialist goal-kickers in the 35-strong squad, to resume kicking at the weekend; his training this week has been inhibited by nagging problems with a muscle at the top of his right thigh but he now looks as though he will face Border in East London on Wednesday. That would be of considerable relief to the management, because Tim Stimpson, the Newcastle full-back and an obvious candidate for the stand-by kicking role, went down with the same bug as Rodber and also suffered ankle trouble during a training session on Tuesday.

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