BRITISH and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland admits centre Jamie Roberts and prop Alex Corbisiero are unlikely to recover in time for Saturday’s second Test against Australia.
Gatland is prepared to wait until a matter of hours before he names his team tomorrow in the hope that they prove their fitness, but is increasingly resigned to facing the Wallabies in Melbourne without the injured pair.
The Lions boss spoke yesterday after his second string comprehensively despatched Melbourne Rebels 35-0 in the final midweek fixture before back-to-back Test matches this weekend and next.
“At this stage it’s a little bit doubtful that they’ll be involved. Alex is struggling a little bit and Jamie is probably in the same boat,” said Gatland, who added that both would be “fine” for the final Test.
“We have a recovery day [today] when everyone’s off. Then 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, but it’s doubtful.”
England prop Mako Vunipola is expected to replace Corbisiero in the XV on Saturday, and earn his first Lions Test start, having been withdrawn from the squad for yesterday’s match as a precaution.
However Gatland hinted at promotions for some of those who impressed against the Rebels, who succumbed to tries from wing Sean Maitland, flanker Sean O’Brien and scrum-halves Conor Murray and Ben Youngs.
O’Brien arguably shone brightest, while captain Dan Lydiate, fellow Wales forward Toby Faletau and England centre Manu Tuilagi also impressed, and Saracens fly-half Owen Farrell slotted three kicks.
“There’s still an opportunity for people to be involved because there are two games,” Gatland added. “Given the attritional rate, there are bound to be a few injuries between now and the final Test.”
Gatland is without lock and vice-captain Paul O’Connell, who broke his arm in Saturday’s first Test win.