THE British and Irish Lions have suffered a major blow ahead of the second Test against Australia, with lock Paul O’Connell ruled out of the rest of the series against Australia due to a fracture in his right forearm.
The 33-year-old Irishman, who was on his third Lions tour and had captained the Lions on their last tour to South Africa in 2009, sustained the injury in the tourists’ 23-21 victory in the first Test in Brisbane on Saturday.
Geoff Parling is set to replace O’Connell for the second Test, with Lions coach Warren Gatland signalling his intention by withdrawing the England lock from today’s tour match against the Melbourne Rebels.
As O’Connell heads home, England centre Manu Tuilagi has revealed his sense of relief after overcoming an injury that meant an anxious spell on the British and Irish Lions sidelines.
Tuilagi suffered a shoulder problem during the victory over Queensland Reds 17 days ago, the same game in which Tommy Bowe broke his hand.
Bowe is on course to feature in the second Test, while 22-year-old Tuilagi will return to action in today’s final midweek tour fixture against the Rebels.
One of Tuilagi’s trademark power-packed performances could conceivably thrust him into contention for the Lions’ Test match-day 23 at Etihad Stadium in four days’ time, but it might easily have been a different story.
“The Lions doesn’t come around very often, and you’ve got to take your chances. Thank God, the shoulder healed up pretty quick,” he said yesterday.
“If I’d gone home it would have been the most disappointing thing (in my career).
“The physios and the coaches gave me seven days to make the tests to see if my shoulder had any improvement in power.
“Luckily, after a couple of days, it came back 20-25 per cent, which was an improvement, and then they just gave me another week. It feels a lot better now.”
Melbourne Rebels: J Woodward; T English, M Inman, R Sidey, L Mitchell; B Hegarty, L Burgess; N Henderson, G Robinson, L Weeks, C Neville, H Pyle, J Saffy, S Fuglistaller, G Delve (capt). Replacements: P Leafa, C Ah Nau, P Alo-Emile, L Jones, J Reid, N Stirzaker, A Roberts, C Vuna.
British & Irish Lions: R Kearney (Ireland); S Maitland (Scotland), M Tuilagi (England), B Barritt (England), S Zebo (Ireland); O Farrell (England), C Murray (Ireland); R Grant (Scotland), R Hibbard (Wales), D Cole (England), R Gray (Scotland), I Evans (Wales), D Lydiate (Wales, capt), S O’Brien (Ireland), T Faletau (Wales). Replacements: R Best (Ireland), T Court (Ireland), M Stevens (England), T Croft (England), J Tipuric (Wales), B Youngs (England), B Twelvetrees (England), S Hogg (Scotland).
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand). Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France) and Craig Joubert (South Africa).