BRITISH and Irish Lions assistant coach Graham Rowntree has shrugged off the dual setbacks of losing lock Paul O’Connell for the rest of the tour and seeing Australia captain James Horwill escape a ban.
O’Connell, who captained the Lions on their 2009 tour, was yesterday ruled out of the second and third Tests after it was confirmed he broke an arm in Saturday’s narrow win over the Wallabies in Brisbane.
“Paul’s a massive loss,” said Rowntree. “He’s such a big influence on the group and has been playing exceptionally well. But you have to get on with these things. You just have to roll with the punches when it comes to injuries.”
Horwill was spared punishment for an alleged stamp on the face of Alun-Wyn Jones in the same match after a disciplinary hearing on Sunday ruled he may have trampled on the Lions second-row by accident.
“It’s happened, we move on,” Rowntree added. “We have enough to get on with, with the Test coming up on Saturday and we accept that decision and get on with it.”
The Lions play their final tour match this morning against Melbourne Rebels, with Wales flanker Dan Lydiate captaining a second-string side that has been reshuffled following O’Connell’s withdrawal.
England lock Geoff Parling has been removed from the side in anticipation of a role in the second Test, with Ian Evans taking his place and Tom Croft named on the bench.
“I’m over the moon,” said Lydiate. “When [head coach] Warren Gatland asked me, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I’m chuffed and really excited. It’s a massive honour.
“I won’t keep talking. I’ll just try to get my point across, lead as I play. I’ll try to keep it simple.
“Saturday was a massive win and we have the chance to keep that momentum going into what will be an even bigger Test.”
Australia have confirmed that wing Digby Ioane and centre Pat McCabe will miss the remainder of the series with shoulder and neck injuries respectively.
Full-back Berrick Barnes is out of Saturday’s match in Melbourne with concussion, but could return for the finale in Sydney on 6 July.