Lions hoping Roberts has avoided hamstring injury
England’s Brad Barritt and Christian Wade called up to squad after win over Waratahs
The Lions will have an anxious wait pending a scan on Jamie Roberts’s apparent hamstring tear, which forced his departure from their win over the Waratahs and left the tourists with 14 men for the final 15 minutes.
Head coach Warren Gatland held out some hope that the injury to the recently qualified doctor might not be as bad as initially feared. However, a reluctance to leave anything to chance led firstly to the call up of London Wasps wing Christian Wade and then, more pertinently with regard to Roberts, the addition of England centre Brad Barritt to the squad.
“We have obviously got some ongoing treatment of some players so it’s prudent to make sure we have enough backline cover,” said Gatland in the statement that announced Wade’s inclusion.
Prior to that the Kiwi was still hopeful a scan on Roberts tomorrow might bring unexpected good news. “The medics thought it might have been a hamstring, but he said he has never pulled a hamstring before, so he is not kind of sure. It is fingers crossed it might not be that.”
Otherwise Gatland was pleased with the outing, the way Michael Cheika’s team predictably put it up to the Lions physically, and the way his side came through.
“It was a good effort. I was very pleased with the outcome, and even when we were down to 14 men I thought we controlled the game without being under too much pressure. In fairness to the Waratahs, they took it to us. I thought the guys responded magnificently, I thought our discipline was excellent.
“We got what we expected. The Waratahs talked about taking it to us physically. They tried to do that, and I thought our guys responded to that physicality. In the end we were just too big and powerful.”
The one caveat to the Waratahs’ approach was the way they clearly targetted the Lions halves Mike Phillips and Jonny Sexton, with the latter often complaining to the touchline officials over late hits which left him requiring treatment and hobbling badly before being taken off half-an-hour from the end, 10 minutes before Gatland emptied the rest of his be bench.
Discussing “the nine and 10 being tackled off the ball and late,” Gatland revealed: “We were trying to communicate that through Sam to the referee for the assistant referees to be vigilant in looking after our 9 and 10.
“The big key in this game was keeping our discipline. It would have been easy enough for someone to be taken late, lose their head and throw a punch, it would be picked up and then cited. I thought our discipline was absolutely fantastic. There were little shoulders and charges and guys being taken late and stuff. That’s part of rugby, people try to unsettle you a little bit, and we’ve got to accept that.
“It is how you respond to that niggle, and I thought our boys were magnificent.”
Gatland hailed a “fantastic performance by centre Jonathan Davies, adding: “Given the quality of our midfield and the pressure he was under to respond, I thought it was one of the best games I’ve seen him play, and so did Alun-Wyn Jones. I thought both of them really stood up. It is quite nice to come in the changing room afterwards and someone like Brian O’Driscoll says ‘man, how good was Jonathan Davies today?’ I thought he was very, very good.
“When you are looking at picking a Test side, you want the collective to be good. That was a collective performance today. When we come to finalising the Test side there are going to be some really tough decisions for us to make. That is a great position to be in, but you also have got to recognise there are going to be some pretty disappointed individuals too.
“We’ve still got a few knocks. At the moment, what we’ve said tonight was an opportunity, and if people put their hand up on Tuesday we expect to have a few headaches.”
One of those who assuredly entered the equation was Simon Zebo, all the more so given ongoing concerns about George North’s hamstring injury.
“Simon Zebo was good. He was one of the players who was unlucky in the first place. We know what quality he has got. I thought he asked some questions of the coaches tonight.”
Asked if he would have any qualms about pitching Zebo into the first test if it came to it, Gatland said: “No problem at all.”
Predictably, too, there was the first accusations of the Lions being “cheats” from a coach, and from a predictable source in Bob Dwyer.
“I think it is a sad indictment on the media world that they rolled out Bob Dwyer. I think he deserves more respect than that, for what he has achieved in the game, to be honest with you. To see the tirade of abuse that he has now been subjected to on websites and stuff, I find that sad. He doesn’t deserve that for what he has achieved in the game.”