Lions unfazed by scrum-half injuries

Back-room staff confident all three No 9s will be fit for first Test despite knocks

This is no time for a scrum-half crisis, so it comes as some relief that the Lions' back-room staff do not think they have one. Not yet, at any rate. Even so, the news that all three half-backs in the squad – Mike Phillips of Wales, Harry Ellis of England and Mike Blair of Scotland – are struggling for full health and fitness just a few days before the opening Test of the series against the Springboks was hardly the best of tidings. Needless to say, the best No 9 in the world, Fourie du Preez, is full of beans and ready to go for the South Africans.

Blair, who pulled out of bench duty ahead of Saturday's narrow victory over Western Province after turning an ankle in training and suffering a mild sprain, is still in the frame for tomorrow's match with the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth, but will have to pass a rigorous examination before the match. There is no guarantee he will make it.

Ellis, who played the whole game at Newlands, was suffering from a chest infection yesterday. But the real concern surrounded Phillips, by some distance the favourite for the Test berth. On Saturday morning, he could be seen running gingerly on a patch of grass outside the team hotel, his efforts overseen by the senior doctor, James Robson, and the physiotherapist Prav Mathema. Yesterday, the medical team reported the Ospreys player had picked up some bruising and stiffness in his lower back.

Given that the Lions had no intention of running Phillips in Port Elizabeth, it does not much matter that his target time for recovery is later in the week. But if his intensive rehabilitation regime fails to bear fruit, the tourists will be forced into seriously rethinking their tactical approach against the Boks at King's Park.

"Injuries in one position are always an issue," said Robson's deputy, Dr Gary O'Driscoll, who has been on the medical staff of Arsenal Football Club since February. "We've met with the coaches and advised them as to the position, but we don't believe any of the scrum-halves will be unavailable for Test selection. The Port Elizabeth game is slightly different. That might be an issue for us."

Casualties from the Western Province fixture include the lock Nathan Hines, who has a calf injury; the flanker Martyn Williams, who has stitches in a gashed knee; and the full-back Rob Kearney, who appeared to have picked up a serious injury during the build-up to the hosts' second-half try but was later diagnosed as suffering from a "dead" leg. Kearney will definitely miss the game in Port Elizabeth tomorrow.

It was also confirmed that Andy Powell, the Welsh No 8, has been operating with crushed bones in his hand. "The X-ray showed nothing and the MRI scan showed virtually nothing," O'Driscoll said. "However, we used a very sophisticated, very expensive CT scan to establish the presence of a crush fracture. Years ago, such an injury would never have been picked up, and it won't stop Andy playing. It's simply a question of pain. When the adrenalin is flowing, this type of problem isn't much of a problem at all."

Meanwhile, there was an interesting take on the hotly competitive loose-head prop situation from the specialist scrum coach Graham Rowntree, who went out of his way to dismiss the theory that the Springboks might be seriously vulnerable at the set piece. The No 1 shirt is being contested by Gethin Jenkins of Wales and Andrew Sheridan of England: the first a thoroughly modern, round-the-field kind of prop; the second a heavy-duty scrummager of the kind the Springboks themselves once inflicted on their poor, unsuspecting opponents.

"I'm not worried about our scrum, but I'm not delighted with it by any means," Rowntree remarked. "At the same time, I don't see the Boks' scrum as a weakness. I just don't buy it." As for the notion that Sheridan might dine out on John Smit, the South African captain who has switched front-row positions from hooker to tight-head prop, he said: "With England, Andrew is often built up as the man to beat up the opposition at the scrum, and quite often it doesn't happen.

"People are always on about Andrew doing this or that, and unless he obliterates someone he is deemed to have failed. It doesn't always work out as expected. Last autumn, we were meant to kick the Australian scrum around, and they turned us over twice. I was embarrassed watching it."

Luke Watson, the Springbok back-rower who led Western Province against the Lions at Newlands, has agreed a two-year deal with troubled Bath and will move to the Premiership once his Currie Cup commitments are completed in the late autumn.

Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum