The British and Irish Lions were licking their considerable wounds yesterday as they reflected on a one-point defeat by Australia in a hard-fought second Test in Melbourne.
Amidst the carnage of an injury-littered clash, there was some good news though as two of the players suffering physical pain rather than the mental variety – Welsh centre Jamie Roberts and English prop Alex Corbisiero – will return to training this week and could feature in the weekend series decider in Sydney.
Roberts, one of the Lions' most effective players in South Africa four years ago, has been out for more than a fortnight after suffering a hamstring injury in the victory over New South Wales Waratahs.
He has been badly missed and his return for one last assault on the Wallabies would send the visitors' spirits soaring.
Corbisiero's absence was also noticeable on Saturday, when the Wallaby forwards made the Lions' scrum creak and forced the inexperienced Mako Vunipola to concede three penalties, two of which were kicked by Christian Leali'ifano. The prop picked up a calf strain in the first Test in Brisbane – a game in which he made a significant impact.
"Most of the players will have two days off, but Jamie and Alex will be going hard at it in an effort to get themselves back," said Andy Farrell, the Lions' defensive coach. "We're hoping they'll be alright for Wednesday, when we'll resume training and start building towards the biggest game of our lives."
Farrell added that the Wales scrum-half Mike Phillips, another star turn on the 2009 tour and a first-choice player here, had fully recovered from the knee injury that lay behind his non-appearance in Melbourne. There was some confusion over the reasons for his omission ahead of the game – Warren Gatland, the head coach, sent out mixed messages about his condition – and this led to speculation that Phillips might have been disciplined for breaking a curfew. But Farrell flatly rejected this idea.
"Mike? He's been as good as gold on this tour," he said. "He's been brilliantly professional, as you'd expect from a top, world-class player. He needed an injection to deal with inflammation in his knee and it put him out of training for two or three days. He's fine now. He's been in the pool, he's been running and he's ready to go."
On Tuesday, captain Sam Warburton will rejoin the squad here in Sydney after staying in Melbourne for a scan on a hamstring injury picked up in the second Test. His participation this weekend remains in doubt.