Ken Owens injury could open the door for Hartley

Ankle injury will keep Wales hooker out of Pro12 semi-final against Leinster

British and Irish Lions hooker Ken Owens has been ruled out of the Scarlets' Guinness Pro12 play-off clash against Leinster on Friday. The Scarlets said Wales international Owens had suffered an ankle injury.

The Lions leave for their 10-game New Zealand tour on May 29th. It is understood that Owens was injured during training with the Scarlets earlier this week and has already been assessed by the Lions.

The Lions, currently in Wales for a pre-tour training camp, are set to reassess him, probably ahead of next week’s training get-together at Carton House.

Owens has delivered a number of outstanding displays for Wales this season and he was among three hookers chosen in a 41-man Lions squad, alongside Ireland captain Rory Best and England's Jamie George.

If Owens ends up being ruled out of the tour, then it could open the door for England skipper Dylan Hartley.

Hartley, despite leading England to a second successive Six Nations title this season, did not make head coach Warren Gatland's final cut.

He was selected for the 2013 Lions tour to Australia but missed out after being sent off in the Aviva Premiership final at Twickenham and then banned for 11 weeks.

Asked about Owens’ injury, Best told reporters at the Lions’ training base: “We heard that today. From his point of view, to miss a semi-final is going to be gutting.

“I hope he recovers and he is fit to play in the final next week, or to train with us in Dublin.”

Lions assistant coach Neil Jenkins added: "It's rugby at the end of the day. Stuff does happen and players get injured.

“Hopefully, Ken is going to be fine, although he is missing a big game for the Scarlets this weekend.

“With a bit of luck everything is going to be okay for the Lions.”