Paul O'Connell and Dan Lydiate launch late charge for Lions selection

2009 captain and Welsh flanker return from injury desperate to impress coach Warren Gatland

The latecomers are suddenly on their way, looking to gatecrash the British and Irish Lions party ahead of this summer's tour of Australia. Dan Lydiate, the outstanding Welsh flanker who missed the recently concluded Six Nations after suffering a serious ankle injury in October, is somewhere close to full fitness and will feature in the Newport Gwent Dragons back row when they play Ospreys in tonight's Pro12 game in Swansea.

Paul O'Connell, who led the Lions in South Africa four years ago, is in a similar place now that he has recovered from surgery on his back at the start of the year. The grand old Irish lock starts for Munster against Connacht tomorrow following a successful second-string appearance, followed by a club run-out for Young Munster last weekend.

It is impossible to predict whether either man will rediscover anything resembling international form in the few short weeks between now and the Lions squad announcement, scheduled for 30 April. This much is certain, though: Warren Gatland, the head coach, holds Lydiate in the highest regard, and is also a big supporter of O'Connell, with whom he worked closely on that Lions trek around Springbok country.

Two other Six Nations absentees are being talked of as possible candidates for the year's big rugby event. The Irish wing Tommy Bowe, another 2009 veteran, has not played for Ulster since suffering a knee injury while on Heineken Cup duty before Christmas, but he has all the right credentials to conduct some meaningful business with the Wallabies in June and his progress is being monitored.

As is that of the England prop Alex Corbisiero, sorely missed towards the back end of the Six Nations, when the red-rose pack struggled to exert authority at the set-piece. The London Irish loose-head specialist, bound for Northampton next season, has been plagued by knee trouble for many months and is showing no immediate sign of a return. But he insists he will play again before the end of the season, and his ability to operate on either side of the scrum would make him a valuable asset to Gatland.

Sale, locked in a mortal struggle with London Welsh at the foot of the Premiership table, can do themselves a favour tonight by beating Bath at the Salford City Stadium. The northerners look strong outside the scrum: the former England wing Mark Cueto is back to lend his all-round footballing expertise to the survival bid, while the reliable Nick Macleod has been awarded the starting berth at No 10 ahead of Danny Cipriani.

Bath, meanwhile, continue to experiment with the exciting Kyle Eastmond at inside centre, and will be hoping for another big performance from the powerful ball-carrying lock Dave Attwood, back at full sail after a long spell in the doldrums and of interest to the England selectors once again.

Tom Arscott, the hard-working London Welsh full-back, will join Sale next season – something of a sensitive move, under the circumstances.

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
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

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all