The Lions suffered their first serious casualty of the South African tour – and their first real body-blow – last night when the gung-ho Irish flanker Stephen Ferris was ruled out of the rest of the trip. The Ulsterman tore the medial ligament in his right knee during a training session on Monday and will be incapacitated for between four and six weeks.
Ryan Jones, the current Wales captain and perhaps the lone Lions success of the benighted visit to New Zealand in 2005, was immediately summoned as a replacement. It was a bitter-sweet moment for the Ospreys loose forward, who started the season as a warm favourite for the captaincy but saw his form fall away during the Six Nations campaign.
Unusually, the Lions selectors omitted three national captains – Jones, Mike Blair of Scotland and Steve Borthwick of England – from their original party. Blair was reprieved when Tomas O'Leary, the inexperienced Irish scrum-half, broke an ankle while playing for Munster three days after being named in the squad. With Jones now on his way to Springbok country, only Borthwick remains on the outside looking in.
Ferris will be badly missed. His fast and furious style backfired in Bloemfontein last Saturday when he received the first yellow card of the tour for ball-killing – a transgression that left him watching helplessly from the sin bin as the Free State Cheetahs capitalised on their numerical advantage to the tune of 14 points. But he contributed long-range tries against both the Golden Lions and the Cheetahs, and his hard-nosed approach at the breakdown put him on the brink of a Test place.
Jones will almost certainly feature in next Tuesday's match with the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, but has no chance of making the cut for the first Test a week on Saturday.Reuse content