O’Connell a concern for second test
Tom Court also called into Lions squad as cover for injured loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero
Paul O’Connell has emerged as a real injury concern for the British & Irish Lions after he sustained an arm injury in the first test win against Australia yesterday.
The Munster captain needed treatment during the second half but continued until the end, turning in a typically influential performance as the Lions prevailed 23-21 in Brisbane.
And the Lions management revealed today that the second row continues to be “treated and assessed”.
The 85 times-capped Ireland lock is an integral part of Lions head coach Warren Gatland’s plans as they head to Melbourne 1-0 up in the series. England forward Geoff Parling would be the obvious replacement if O’Connell is sidelined.
Court will go straight on to the Lions bench for Tuesday’s clash against the Melbourne Rebels.
Away from the injury situation, Gatland today questioned Kurtley Beale’s choice of footwear as a potential reason for his failure to kick the Lions’ first test hopes into oblivion. The Lions held on for a 23-21 victory at Suncorp Stadium, but it would have been different had substitute Beale landed a last-gasp penalty instead of it drifting wide after he slipped on impact.
“If I was a coach looking at Kurtley Beale coming on, I would be looking at the boots he was wearing,” Gatland said. “He came on to the field wearing ‘mouldies’ and he slipped over taking that last kick. He slipped over on a couple of occasions. Why has he come out on the field wearing that sort of footwear in those sort of conditions?”
“We’ve had these issues a lot with our players with Wales at the Millennium Stadium. It’s quite a slippery surface, and on a lot of occasions we’ve said to players to make sure they have the right footwear because it is a slippery surface and you have to turn up with the right tools. It’s part of your job, making sure that you are prepared.”
The Lions prevailed through tries in each half by Wales wings George North and Alex Cuthbert, whilefull-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked five from six shots at goal. In contrast, Wallabies kickers Beale and James O’Connor saw 14 points go begging as the Lions ultimately repeated their opening win in Brisbane of 12 years ago and also overcame some erratic refereeing by New Zealand official Chris Pollock.
“A few players came off the field feeling a bit frustrated. They found it difficult (to understand) a couple of times when they were penalised,” Gatland added. “Mako Vunipola was penalised for coming in from the side, but he was part of the tackle, and that could have cost us the game at the end. One of the strengths of Brian O’Driscoll is his ability to get on the ball and create turnovers, and he just felt he wasn’t able to do that as part of his game because he had been penalised on a couple of occasions.
“He knew if he got penalised again he would get a yellow card, so he stayed away from the ball. Craig Joubert (second Test referee) is a very experienced referee. We’ll put last night behind us and it will probably be good for him (Joubert) having been an assistant referee in that match, on the sideline, to know about the pace of the game.
“I thought he was good in terms of the support he gave the referee, and I am looking forward to the number one referee in the world doing next Saturday.”
While Australia come to terms with a crippling injury list — they called three players into their squad today, including veteran flanker George Smith — Gatland initially had a full roster to choose from today before news of O’Connell and Corbisiero was released. Ireland wing Tommy Bowe is set to be available following a rapid recovery from a broken hand, while Jamie Roberts (hamstring) is also on course and his fellow centre Manu Tuilagi will line up against the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday after putting a shoulder problem behind him.
And Bowe’s successful injury fight allowed Gatland to take a punt on North yesterday following his build-up to the opening test being affected by a hamstring complaint.
“Tommy is one of the best players that we have got available to us and one of the reasons we took the risk on George North,” he said. “If Tommy hadn’t been fit and available for this week, we probably wouldn’t have put George North in at the weekend because the medical staff were saying there was a reasonable chance that his hamstring wouldn’t last for 80 minutes.
“They have done a magnificent job because we found ourselves in the situation where we could take the risk on George knowing that Tommy would be fit for the second Test. If Tommy wasn’t fit, we probably wouldn’t have started George.”