The British and Irish Lions were last night rocked by a biting allegation levelled at one of their star players.
Ireland prop Cian Healy will face a disciplinary hearing in Brisbane today after being cited for allegedly biting Western Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan during yesterday’s game at Patersons Stadium. He could land a minimum 12-week ban if the case is proved, which would end his tour.
But the 25-year-old is also battling an injury, and Alex Corbisiero was last night called up from England’s Argentina tour to join the Lions squad as injury cover.
Leinster forward Healy was carried off later in the game with suspected ankle ligament damage. He will undergo a scan in Brisbane tomorrow, but his tour prospects look bleak.
In a statement, the Australian Rugby Union said: “Healy has been cited under Law 10.4.m Acts contrary to good sportsmanship, a player may not bite an opponent. The incident occurred in the 17th minute. Healy will now appear at a judicial hearing tomorrow, Thursday 6 June, at the Sofitel Hotel in Brisbane.”
Match citing officer, South African Freek Burger, asked Sheehan to provide him with a statement following the game after he made a biting allegation to referee Glen Jackson during the match.
The game was held up while television match official Glenn Newman looked at replays from different angles of any alleged offence, but nothing materialised from that footage.
Burger was also investigating an allegation of stamping by Lions scrum-half Conor Murray. He has until the early hours of this morning, UK time, to make any citing.
Corbisiero, meanwhile, was rated as unlucky to miss out on the original Lions squad selection, but he is now expected to link up with the Lions in Brisbane during the next few days.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland said: “Cian has had an X-ray and, while his left ankle is not broken, he will be assessed further when we get to Brisbane.
“In the meantime, we need to get Alex over here as soon as possible, and I am thankful to [England head coach] Stuart Lancaster for letting him go so quickly.”
London Irish forward Corbisiero, who joins Northampton next season, will depart Argentina from Salta, where England are currently preparing to face the Pumas in Saturday’s first Test.
Lancaster said: “We are delighted for Alex. It’s very pleasing for him after he missed the Six Nations through injury, and he goes with our full support and blessing.
“All the England players and management couldn’t be more pleased for him to get this opportunity.”
Wales prop Gethin Jenkins is set to make his first start of the tour when the Lions tackle Queensland Reds on Saturday but it is feasible that Corbisiero could be involved against a combined New South Wales/Queensland Country XV in Newcastle next Tuesday.
Corbisiero’s call-up, however, will come as another blow to the hopes of Scotland prop Ryan Grant. The Glasgow front row has been one of the most consistent performers in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season, regularly working over more experienced Test characters and starring with fine displays in the loose. But the latest selection comes down to the same reasoning that led to Grant missing the initial cut – he does not figure highly on these coaches’ radar.
Lions forwards coach Graham Rowntree stunned many when he initially chose Matt Stevens, who has not played international rugby for nearly two years, and his influence led to another England front row being called up last night. With their match fitness questionable, both may make him regret the choices.
The one positive aspect for Grant, who starts for Scotland against Samoa in Durban on Saturday, is that he must now be at the front of the queue should any more loosehead props fall by the wayside.
Yesterday’s 69-17 win over Western Force means that, in two games so far on tour against the Barbarians and Force, the Lions have scored 128 points and 17 tries.
Gatland said: “We’ve got players who can get across the gain-line. If we can get quick ball and the forwards can get us on the front foot as well, then we have got the potential to be really dangerous.
“I think we are going to get a tougher game against the Reds on Saturday.”