By Alan Dymock
IT IS hard to explain why sports stars enjoy having the underdog tag heading into big contests, but when something like the Lions tour comes up around the bend you can at least understand why being heavily backed could be seen as a bad thing. It is not so much a curse, but when you are touted to tour some players may want to avoid ladders, black cats and breaking out the pocket mirrors.
Barely a week ago I asked Ryan Jones if he paid any heed to the buzz around his chances to tour. He claimed he was prepared to wait and see, not willing to say he was in the mix. This despite me telling him mow much he was fancied by the nation’s bookmakers.
In the midst of the much-curtailed contest at Murrayfield, though, Jones suffered a blow. Despite helping Wales to victory his role in the match was somewhat bittersweet, and he was helped from the pitch. Later we were told this was due to a broken bone in his shoulder.
He has been given six to eight weeks to recover, but it would be optimistic to say he will be in the mix in April, despite his injury. Speed recovery.
A hamstring tear has ruled out the giant second-row for a few months. The jolt of seeing the lock with the blond shock being zoomed off the pitch on Saturday may have been slightly distressing for Scots fans, but the Sale Shark’s chances of touring Down Under hang on by a thread, with him said to be returning before the season’s close.
His return may be vital for Sharks’ relegation battle, but Warren Gatland will not have time to be convinced before he names his squad on April, 30. If he is not a fan already it could be too late.
The No 8 battle is still considered to be the most wide-open in the run up to the squad selection. However, despite not turning out since his strong display against Scotland in the opening round of the championship, it has taken until this week to be ruled out for the closing game.
He may not have been a consideration, but he was scribbled in as someone to return by the end. If you are looking for a bolter to come in somewhere, at the back of the scrum may be one of those places… Mr Delve.
He may still be cleared to play, but the former Lions captain and his centre partner Luke Marshall are both under observation following bumps to the noggin during Ireland’s draw with France. With scrum-half Eoin Reddan out with a broken leg and Fergus McFadden also crocked it is a tough time for the Ireland squad.
O’Driscoll could still be taken, just because it is BOD, but the window of recovery is a small one. If he is absent, someone may have to rise up and put in a big time performance in the centre to fill as massive void.