Brian O’Driscoll is likely to be fit for Friday’s Amlin Challenge Cup final despite being told to stay in bed for 48 hours to rest his injured back, according to Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland.
O’Driscoll was forced off in the 13th minute of Leinster’s RaboDirect Pro 12 semi-final victory over Glasgow on Saturday after suffering a recurrence of spasms in his back.
Doctors have ordered O’Driscoll to stay in bed for two days to allow the injury to recover, which meant he was unable to fly to London for yesterday’s official kitting out session for the Lions squad to tour Australia.
But although Gatland admitted he had ‘no idea’ whether the injury will flare up again over the course of the Lions tour he gave Leinster a huge boost by declaring the 34-year-old should be fit for the European decider against Stade Francais at the RDS.
“The information I have is that he needs to keep off his feet for 48 hours,” said Gatland. “He is hoping to be right for Friday and the Amlin final. Fingers crossed everything will be OK for him.
“It tends to come once a year for him at some stage. Normally he has an epidural to relieve the pain and stays off his feet. Is it an ongoing and manageable problem? I have no idea.
“We have known in the past he has had problems with his back and it has gone into spasm during the game against Glasgow.
“The advice I have been given is that it has happened before and it’s normally 48 hours recovery and he hopes to play this weekend.
“Hopefully he can play in the next couple of weeks in a couple of big games, and then there is the tour as well.”
And Jonny Sexton, who did make it to London along with fellow Leinster Lions Jamie Heaslip, Rob Kearney, Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien, is confident O’Driscoll’s problem is not serious.
He said: “I don’t think Brian is too bad. He had a back spasm and stayed at home for a bit of treatment, but he should be fine.”
Yet Leinster’s players and Ulster wing Tommy Bowe have been warned they will be at a significant disadvantage when they do eventually join up with the Lions after the Pro 12 final between the provinces on May 25.
Of the 37 players in Gatland’s squad, just 22 will spend the next fortnight training together in camp. The seven involved in the Pro 12 final all returned to their provinces last night, as did those from Leicester and Northampton, who meet in the Aviva Premiership final, also on May 25.
Gethin Jenkins, the Toulon prop, was also absent yesterday, and Gatland has revealed it will be tough for those not in camp over the next fortnight to break into his team, with the first tour match against the Barbarians in Hong Kong set for June 1.
And Gatland has hinted he hopes there will be changes made to the domestic schedules ahead of the 2017 Lions tour to New Zealand.
“The first three-and-a-half weeks will be about preparation for the first Test,” said Gatland.
“The players that prepare for that first game (in Hong Kong) are going to have the biggest advantage on tour.
“They are the players not involved in finals so they are going to have the best preparation. The players coming back from finals are going to be at a disadvantage because of their lack of preparation time.
“You hope that going forward if you are going to take Lions tours real seriously you need to make sure you have adequate preparation time to make a good fist of it on tour.
“You need co-operation from the four governing bodies and competition organisers, and from the touring country as well (to change the schedules). My ideal scenario would be to have two weeks preparation time here before going on tour.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved