Martin Corry, who knows a thing or two about the big occasion having performed in half a dozen Lions Tests and a World Cup final, will not be featuring in this weekend's prime piece of rugby business: the Heineken Cup semi-final between his club, Leicester, and Cardiff Blues at the Millennium Stadium. The former England captain has played precious little rugby of late, partly through suspension and partly through injury, and as a result, the Tigers head coach, Richard Cockerill, has given him the thumbs down.
Cockerill was profoundly surprised that news of this decision had leaked into the public domain, but as Corry was the man doing the leaking, there was not much point in denying it. "Martin isn't quite match-fit," he explained.
"We may well need him for the Premiership semi-final with Bath on Saturday week, but as far as this next match is concerned, he hasn't done enough to make the squad. I'm perfectly happy with my options, so there is no need to rush him back."
Those options include moving Tom Croft, deeply unlucky to have missed out on the Lions cut for the forthcoming tour of South Africa, from the blind-side flank to lock, thereby allowing both Lewis Moody and the in-form Ben Woods to start the game in the back row. Cockerill must also make delicate judgements at scrum-half – Harry Ellis and Julien Dupuy are the contenders – and in the 10-12 area, where Sam Vesty has played his way into the mix alongside Toby Flood, the current England outside-half, and Aaron Mauger, the All Black centre now fully recovered from injury.
Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board has identified the three referees who will officiate in the South Africa-Lions Test series in June and July. Two of them are from the southern hemisphere: Bryce Lawrence of New Zealand and Stuart Dickinson of Australia. The other, Christophe Berdos, is from France. Lawrence has been given charge of the crucial opening Test, in Durban on 20 June.
The non-Tests will be split between South African and British Isles referees. Wayne Barnes of England, Nigel Owens of Wales and Alain Rolland of Ireland will control the Lions' contests against the Free State Cheetahs, a Coastal XV and the Emerging Springboks respectively, while Marius Jonker, Craig Joubert, Mark Lawrence and Jonathan Kaplan have been awarded the other fixtures.