IRELAND’S Tommy Bowe is almost certainly out of the rest of the British and Irish Lions tour after suffering a suspected broken bone in his hand during yesterday’s victory over Queensland Reds.
The Lions have already lost props Cian Healy (ankle ligaments) and Gethin Jenkins (calf muscle strain). They will both fly home today, while their replacements Alex Corbisiero and Ryan Grant have already arrived in Australia.
Bowe, though, has become the latest casualty, and confirmation of his tour exit is likely within the next 24 hours. “It doesn’t look too good with Tommy at the moment,” Lions head coach Warren Gatland said. “It looks like he has broken a bone in his hand and probably needs an operation.”
Asked if that meant the end of Bowe’s tour, Gatland added: “I would say so. We will probably talk about that [a replacement] tonight, and we’ve got an early press conference tomorrow to name the team for Tuesday’s game. We probably will bring out someone.”
If Gatland does summon a replacement, then players such as Scotland’s Tim Visser, Ireland’s Simon Zebo and young Englishman Christian Wade could all be in the frame.
Bowe overcame an injury in time to be selected for the tour and his form had made him pretty much a certainty for the first Test team against Australia at Suncorp Stadium on June 22, but those hopes now appear to have been dashed.
Centre Manu Tuilagi, meanwhile, went off with a shoulder injury, but Gatland said: “Manu got a little bit of a stinger in his shoulder, just a bit of a dead arm. He lost a bit of feeling in his arm.”
Reflecting on the 22-12 victory, Gatland added: “The game was exactly what we wanted. It was a reminder to the players what it means to an opposition team playing against the Lions. They came out 100 miles per hour in the first 20 minutes and we soaked up the pressure. We gutsed it out and came away with the win and I am very pleased with the performance.”
Owen Farrell kicked 17 points, and Gatland added: “I thought Owen was great today. His composure and goalkicking was excellent, he ran well and was strong defensively. The thing you admire about Owen, given his age, is he has got that competitive edge, he goes away, thinks about it and improves each performance.”
And assistant coach Graham Rowntree said: “It was just the game we needed. There were some tired boys at half-time with the way the Reds were playing, but we dug in there.
“The set-piece went well. Losing Gethin yesterday, and having two tightheads on the bench, Lions tours are about that. We are delighted with the result – it was a good workout.”
And Lions skipper Sam Warburton, pictured below, added: “It was good to get used to the tempo. It reminded me very much of the first Test we played out here with Wales last summer. We will benefit from it hugely.”
Reds skipper Quade Cooper said: “The Reds outscored the Lions 2-1 on tries, and they could feel proud of their performance despite going down to defeat. We wanted to run them around as much as possible and try to keep the tempo up. That was our intent throughout the game.
“I was very pleased with the performance of the boys. We left everything out on the park. The effort, the attitude shown, that’s the kind of attitude you need.
“It was a great building block for us moving forward. It should put us in a good position. We showed a way of putting the Lions under pressure, and we enjoy playing that style of rugby.”