British & Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland will have a few interesting selection calls to make tomorrow as his side go in search of a first series success since 1997 on Saturday.
Gatland was impressed with the way a number of his squad performed in last night’s win over the Rebels in Melbourne and he could be tempted to make some alterations to the matchday 23 ahead of the second Test against the Qantas Wallabies in the same city.
And with injury doubts still hanging over loose head prop Alex Corbisiero and inside centre Jamie Roberts, all eyes will be on the team announcement at 12.15pm local time (3.15am BST) tomorrow.
Corbisiero suffered a calf problem in the opening 23-21 win in Brisbane at the weekend, while Roberts missed that match with the hamstring injury he picked up during the victory over the Waratahs 10 days ago. Both men will be assessed later this week but Gatland is confident they will be fit for the third Test in Sydney if they don’t pull through in time for Saturday.
“Alex is probably struggling a little bit. Jamie’s probably in the same boat. Both of them should be fine for the third Test,” said Gatland, whose squad were on a well-earned day off today.
“We’ll look at seeing how they are on Thursday morning. The medics have been doing a fantastic job for us and they might be declared fit on Thursday, but at this stage it’s a little bit doubtful.”
Gatland was pleased to report that the Lions didn’t appear to suffer any more injury setbacks in last night’s game, after they lost lock Paul O’Connell to a fractured arm on Monday.
“A couple of guys have got some knocks but I spoke to the medics and everyone seems to have come through okay. But sometimes it’s the next day, as we found out with Paul O’Connell. We’ll just have to wait and see for 24 hours but at this stage everyone looks pretty good,” added Gatland.
There was good news regarding Ireland wing Tommy Bowe, who should be fit for selection having not featured since June 8 when he broke a bone in his hand against the Queensland Reds.
Bowe started all three Tests against South Africa four years ago and Gatland confirmed earlier this week that the 29-year-old would be in contention for a fourth cap at the Etihad Stadium.
"Tommy Bowe is fit and available, he trained today and did contact," Gatland said after Saturday’s pulsating encounter at the Suncorp Stadium.
"Tommy is one of the best players that we have got available to us and one of the reasons we took the risk on George North. If Tommy hadn't been fit and available for this week, we probably wouldn't have put George North in at the weekend because the medical staff were saying there was a reasonable chance that his hamstring wouldn't last for 80 minutes.
"They have done a magnificent job because we found ourselves in the situation where we could take the risk on George knowing that Tommy would be fit for the second Test. If Tommy wasn't fit, we probably wouldn't have started George."
Manu Tuilagi was the other player who wasn’t available for the first Test but the England centre recovered from his shoulder problem to play the full 80 minutes against the Rebels and could now push for a Test debut this time around.