The Lions will decide within the next 48 hours whether to summon a replacement pro for Cian Healy, who suffered suspected ankle ligament damage in today’s 69-17 win over Western Force.
Although an X-ray confirmed the Ireland loose-head did not suffer a break, Warren Gatland is sufficiently concerned to consider a replacement.
England’s Alex Corbisiero, who can play on both sides of the scrum, and Ryan Grant, impressive for Scotland during the Six Nations, will be the front-runners to come in if needed.
Healy sustained his injury shortly before the interval when he was tackled by flanker Angus Cottrell. The Dubliner hit the ground hard, his face contorted in pain. Within seconds, the tourists’ medical staff signalled for the stretcher. Two of Healy’s Leinster clubmates, Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Heaslip, ran over to offer heartfelt sympathy — a clear sign of their concern.
Already 17-3 up after tries from Ireland outside-half Jonathan Sexton, who ambled through a disconnected Force defence in the fourth minute, and O’Driscoll, who touched down in the corner after a smart exchange of passes with the impressive George North, the Lions reacted to this blow by pushing things along on the scoreboard. Leigh Halfpenny added an immediate penalty and then converted from the touchline as England flanker Tom Croft maximised a big overlap with the help of Sean O’Brien and Alun Wyn Jones.
Not that things had gone completely to plan. After Sexton’s soft try, the Lions found themselves in difficulties as the Force found ways of exerting pressure. There was also an uncomfortable moment when Force players complained of a biting incident involving Healy but a referral to the television official Glenn Newman yielded nothing in the way of hard evidence. The Lions were happy enough by the break, though, and when the impressive Heaslip set sail in open field on the restart and then completed the job by scoring from Sexton’s magisterial pass, they set their sights on a big score.
Pegged back momentarily by a close-range try from Force No 8 Richard Brown, they were back on the rampage within minutes, Mako Vunipola crashing over in the right corner. Halfpenny’s angled conversion was as perfectly struck as the others.
Indeed, Halfpenny delivered a master class in marksmanship. A second O’Driscoll try, cleverly created by Sexton and Manu Tuilagi; a cruising score for Owen Farrell; a close-range finish from Geoff Parling . . . all were improved by the Wales full-back, who ended the game with a faultless haul of 24 points.
Meanhile, Ireland full-back Rob Kearney, who has a hamstring injury will return to training next week.