Tommy Bowe not ruled out of Lions Tour

 

Ireland star Tommy Bowe underwent surgery in Brisbane today - but the British and Irish Lions have not ruled him out of their future tour plans Down Under.

While injured props Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins headed for home, Bowe had an operation to repair the broken hand he suffered during yesterday's victory over Queensland Reds.

Bowe's Ireland team-mate Simon Zebo is on his way from North America to provide injury cover, the Lions confirmed, yet there is also a degree of optimism that Bowe could recover quickly and possibly be involved in the Test series against Australia.

"The surgeon who spoke to him said that if everything goes all right it could be just a couple of weeks. Once the plate is put in, the bones are fixed, basically," Lions head coach Warren Gatland said.

Bowe's blistering form suggests he would have been a shoo-in selection for the opening Test on June 22, but although that game now appears beyond him, the second Wallabies encounter a week later could conceivably feature on Gatland's selection radar.

The surgery was to stabilise a bone fracture in his hand, and the Lions say his condition will be assessed over the next few days.

Zebo, meanwhile, played for Ireland against the US Eagles in Houston on Saturday, helping them to a 15-12 win. He is due to arrive in Sydney on Tuesday.

"I am absolutely over the moon. It is the best news I could have dreamt of," Zebo, 23, said.

"As a professional rugby player, the ultimate goal is to be a British and Irish Lion."

Fly-half Jonathan Sexton, meanwhile, has had a scan on his hamstring, but Gatland added: "There was no tear in the hamstring, it was just a little bit tight."

Neither Sexton nor his fellow number 10 Owen Farrell will be involved in Tuesday's game against a Combined Country XV at Newcastle's Hunter Stadium. Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg will start at fly-half, with Leigh Halfpenny and possibly Jonathan Davies providing bench cover.

Brian O'Driscoll, who resumes his much-heralded 2009 Lions midfield partnership with Jamie Roberts, captains a team that also sees prop Alex Corbisiero starting after arriving in Brisbane from England's Argentina tour.

And Scotland loosehead Ryan Grant, the Lions' second front-row replacement following injuries to Healy and Jenkins, is on bench duty.

"We will look at how both of them (Corbisiero and Grant) train over the next few days. They have just got to get up to speed in terms of calls and structures and stuff," Gatland said.

"It's good to give them an opportunity on Tuesday.

"Alex was a player unfortunately who was injured during the Six Nations. If he had been fit and available he would have been one of the players we would have been looking at from the start.

"You feel really sorry for the players that pick up injuries and unfortunately have to go home.

"But when you see the excitement of the players that have been called up it is a lift not just for the (other) players, but also the coaches. He (Corbisiero) was like a small kid in a lolly shop arriving into camp.

"Given that both the 10s have been involved for every game so far, we are probably at the stage now where we need to look after them a little bit and give them an opportunity for a rest.

"We haven't picked a 10 to cover on the bench, so we need to look at probably running Leigh Halfpenny a little bit there if Stuart Hogg gets injured, or probably someone like Jonathan Davies as well.

"To be honest, the tour is probably about two matches too short for us. You would like a couple more warm-up matches before going into the first Test.

"We've just got to make sure we look after the players in terms of the physical impact on the bodies. There was a reasonable amount of claret spilt last night from both teams. That's how hard and tough it was, but that is what top rugby is all about."

O'Driscoll and Roberts could be the midfield pairing Gatland opts for against the Wallabies, especially as they have tried and tested form together in Lions colours.

And O'Driscoll is relishing linking up with the Welshman as the Lions chase a fourth successive tour win.

"Myself and Jamie hit it off well in South Africa four years ago," O'Driscoll said. "We clicked quite early on in training and we managed to do so in games, so it would be nice to pick up hopefully from where we left off.

"Similar to what I said last week about Manu (Tuilagi), Jamie has got a great range to his game as well. Everyone sees the size, but he's a good distributor, a good off-loader, clever in defence and reads things well."

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