Dan Biggar’s fitness a concern for Lions ahead of second Test

Alun Wyn Jones calls for improvement as he expects a stronger South African side

  Lions’ Dan Biggar  will have to undergo World Rugby’s strict six-stage, graduated return-to-play protocols. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Lions’ Dan Biggar will have to undergo World Rugby’s strict six-stage, graduated return-to-play protocols. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

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Dan Biggar is the British & Irish Lions’ primary concern moving on to next Saturday’s second Test in Cape Town, when a win would secure a first series win in South Africa in 24 years.

The Welsh 31-year-old, who has established himself as the Lions’ first-choice outhalf on this tour, put one penalty miss behind him to land five from six in a 14-point haul in Saturday’s 22-17 comeback win over the Springboks.

However, Biggar was forced off in the 67th minute when making a tackle on Damian de Allende to undergo a HIA, which he failed, and did not return, with Elliot Daly returning to the fray and Owen Farrell shifting inside to outhalf.

Biggar could be seen celebrating on the sidelines after the full-time whistle and wrote in his column for the Daily Mail: “Unfortunately, I had to go off as when I came out of a ruck Siya Kolisi’s knee whacked me on the side of the head. I feel fine and am already buzzing for next week.”

The likelihood is that the Lions will name Biggar at “10” again when they announce their team, which is scheduled for Thursday but was brought forward by 24 hours last week, with Farrell on the bench.

History of concussions

Nonetheless, Biggar does have a history of concussions and he will have to undergo World Rugby’s strict six-stage, graduated return-to-play protocols. Hence, with a seven-day turnaround, if Biggar has any setbacks he will be ruled out of next Saturday’s second Test.

The British & Irish Lions

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That would mean Farrell, who sealed the win with his sole shot at goal but hasn’t looked at his best on this tour, starting at “10” and either Finn Russell or the inexperienced Marcus Smith on the bench, or the Lions could opt to have Stuart Hogg cover outhalf.

There has been no real update on Russell’s wellbeing since Gatland confirmed, two weeks ago, that the Scottish outhalf had received an injection for “a slight, wee tear” in his Achilles that would sideline him for “the next couple of weeks”.

The Welsh loose-head Wyn Jones, who was forced to withdraw from the first Test with a shoulder injury, is expected to be fit, while Gatland and co have other selection issues to consider. Although Anthony Watson carried well, he was unusually unsure under the high ball and at fault for the try by Willie le Roux when missing Pieter Steph du Toit after he had regathered a wayward pass behind him by Handre Pollard.

Certainly, given some of the Lions’ vulnerability under high balls from the Springboks and to kicks in behind, room may have to be found for Liam Williams. They’ll surely also consider a change in midfield, say promoting Bundee Aki and shifting Robbie Henshaw across, considering Elliot Daly’s mixed bag.

At least they do so from a position of strength, after what was a fourth win, to go with a draw and just two defeats, in seven Tests with Gatland as head coach.

“It’s definitely up there. Any Lions Test win is special,” said Gatland when asked to rank this one. “For us, it’s been a challenge. We’ve worked hard and, for me, having been down points and been under a little bit of pressure, keeping our composure and fighting our way back was the most pleasing thing, just how strong we continued to grow into the game. To beat the world champions in their own back yard is really, really special.”

Backlash

The Lions head into the second Test knowing that a win would secure only the third series win in the last dozen tours, dating back to the 1890s, but also knowing that a Boks backlash awaits.

“We know what we’ve achieved today but we also know what we haven’t achieved. There’s still plenty to do,” admitted the seemingly indestructible and indefatigable captain Alun Wyn Jones after his unwavering 80-minute shift. (The Welsh warrior even led the Lions tackle count with 10).

“This is a three-Test series. Knowing the calibre of player and the attitude our opposition have, that’s going to go through the roof next week and we have to be better again, first and foremost looking at ourselves but also to deal with what we know is going to come next week.”

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