INJURED wing Tommy Bowe may still play for the British and Irish Lions in their Test series with Australia, coach Warren Gatland has confirmed, despite flying out his replacement.
Simon Zebo has been called into the squad after Ireland team-mate Bowe underwent an operation on a broken hand suffered during Saturday’s 22-12 win over Queensland Reds.
Props Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins have returned home having also been stricken by injury, but Gatland is more positive about Bowe’s prospects of featuring on the tour.
“The surgeon who spoke to him said that if everything goes all right it could be just a couple of weeks,” Gatland confirmed. “Once the plate is put in, the bones are fixed, basically.”
Gatland’s team will hope to continue their 100 per cent tour record against a Combing Country XV in Newcastle tomorrow.
Centre Brian O’Driscoll will captain the side, with tour skipper Sam Warburton rested.
Fly-halves Jonny Sexton, nursing a tight hamstring, and Owen Farrell have also not been named, so full-back Stuart Hogg reverts to No10.
Alex Corbisiero goes straight into the starting line-up at loosehead prop having joined the squad following Healy’s injury, while Ryan Grant, Jenkins’ replacement, is named on the bench.
“When you see the excitement of the players that have been called up it is a lift, not just for the players, but also the coaches,” said Gatland.
“He [Corbisiero] was like a small kid in a lolly shop arriving into camp.”
Meanwhile Gatland has moved quickly to clarify comments he made regarding possible spying on his team’s training sessions by Australia.
A spectator was chased out of a team warm-up in Perth last week, but Gatland does not believe the man acted inappropriately on the Wallabies’ behalf.
“I said that the Australian team were videoing us in our game [against Western Force] from behind the field, which they are perfectly entitled to,” he added. “I said we threw some punter out of training that was videoing us, that was all. So there’s no allegations of spying.”
READY TO ROAR
Team to play Combined Country XV
■ Maitland, Cuthbert, O’Driscoll, Roberts, North, Hogg, Murray, Corbisiero, Hibbard, Cole, Gray, Evans, O’Brien, Tiuric, Heaslip