Warren Gatland has warned that Munster’s three tourists will be among a wider group of players to find themselves at a disadvantage when they finally put club duties to bed and link up with his Lions.
CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony, and Conor Murray have a PRO12 final before they don a different shade of red. Likewise Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams, who feature for Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday. Ken Owens, their club captain, was already in Lions camp yesterday however. The hooker missed the semi-final win against Leinster with a shoulder problem and it was confirmed yesterday that he will sit out the final too.
Meanwhile, the trio of James Haskell, Elliot Daly, and Jack Nowell will be busy with the Aviva Premiership decider between Exeter and Wasps, while Northampton’s Courtney Lawes and George North face a Champions Cup play-off with Stade Francais.
Leigh Halfpenny has a Top 14 semi-final with Toulon and may end up following the squad out to New Zealand if Toulon get over La Rochelle.
Results in England and Ireland last week worked in Gatland’s favour with his squad count rising from 14 bodies to 30 so last week’s work in Wales has simply been repeated for the newbies at Carton House. That can only go on so long.
“It’s going to put those players coming in next weekend at a slight disadvantage because they’re going to have to pretty much school themselves, or work with coaches one on one and look at training videos to get up to speed,” said Gatland.
The Lions have already lost Ben Youngs and Billy Vunipola, though Haskell has been called up to replace the latter, the domino effect means CJ Stander is being viewed more as a No.8 than a six for now.
Gatland is working on the theory that between six and 10 players will fall crook before the tour’s end although there was encouraging news on the injury front. Jack McGrath’s arm injured in Leinster’s loss to Scarlets is “fine” while Johnny Sexton’s head injury assessment came up clear.
Sean O’Brien missed four weeks with hamstring issues but Gatland said a scan came back “pretty good” and he is being eased into work. “Sean is probably more concerned than we are,” said Gatland.
Sam Warburton has also declared himself fully fit. The tour captain, recuperating from a knee injury, has resumed full contact in training since arriving in Ireland.
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