Mauled Lions hit by early fitness fears

BRITISH and Irish Lions head coach Ian McGeechan is today set to name a much-changed side for Wednesday&rsquo;s second tour match, against Golden Lions. <br /><br />McGeechan has been forced to shuffle his pack with a number of players already nursing injuries, just a week into the tour of South Africa. Centre Keith Earls, who made a disappointing debut in Saturday&rsquo;s laboured 37-25 win over the Royal XV, is expected to miss out with a shoulder injury picked up in the tour opener. There are also doubts over scrum-half Mike Blair, who rolled his ankle, and centre Riki Flutey, who missed training yesterday with a slight strain.<br /><br />Captain Paul O&rsquo;Connell needed treatment on Saturday for an eye abrasion, fly-half Ronan O&rsquo;Gara hurt his shoulder, Mike Phillips sustained a dead leg and prop Andrew Sheridan suffered blisters.<br /><br />But there was better news yesterday for No8 Andy Powell and flanker Stephen Ferris, who both missed the weekend fixture. Powell is back in training following a hand problem while Ferris has recovered from a muscle strain he suffered getting off the team bus &ndash; which Lions doctor James Robson called &ldquo;an early contender for bizarre injury of the tour.&rdquo;<br /><br />Meanwhile Earls, at 21 the youngest member of the squad, has been backed to learn from his error-strewn Lions bow. <br /><br />Assistant coach Rob Howley said: &ldquo;A Lions jersey can make you do funny things; it can make you 6ft 8in tall or it can make you go out there a drop the ball. Keith will be a much better player for that experience.&rdquo;