The Runner Sports

British and Irish Lions Update 5/4/2017

Less than one month away from the British and Irish Lions’ first match, there are many question marks for the Lions and All Blacks.

Leigh Halfpenny given his release by Toulon, but at a price.

Halfpenny has confirmed that he has been released by Toulon for the British and Irish Lions series this summer as part of a one-year extension at Toulon. Last tour’s player of the tour and record-breaking try scorer stated that it was a major portion of the agreement to extend a year.

“When I went through the process of whether to take up this extra year I spoke with Mourad and said that for me to stay on I would want to go on the Lions tour, if selected”

“They agreed to put in a clause for the Lions release. Mourad said to me, ‘We know how big the Lions is for you as a Welshman and we are happy to let you go.’” 

This comes as a stark change from four years ago. In 2013, Toulon refused to release any of their players for the tour until the Top 14 season was complete. Mourad Boudjellal has a reputation of difficulty with releasing players. That makes this deal even more surprising, with the Lions’ opening fixture being one day before the Top 14 final.

Injuries plague some expected stars for the Lions squad.

Lions captain Sam Warburton has been on the sidelines for two weeks with a knee injury sustained against Ulster. He was originally expected to be out for six weeks. It is possible that he could play as early as this upcoming weekend for the Blues’ season finale according to Warren Gatland.

“I spoke to Sam yesterday and he feels that he could play now, and so he has made some really good progress and is really happy with how he has responded to treatment over the last few weeks.”

There was discussion immediately after his injury, that Warburton’s captaincy could be in question. If he is available to play this weekend, it should put all those rumors to rest.

Alun Wyn Jones may finally make his return to the Ospreys for their match against Scarlets this week. Jones has been out with a shoulder injury since March. The injury came about during the Welsh trip to Paris for the Six Nations. Ospreys’ defensive coach Brad Davies stated, “He has been out training. He still has to come through some contact protocols.”

Conor Murray has been on the verge of returning for weeks. He sustained nerve damage to his neck during the Wales match in the Six Nations. It is unlikely that he will make his return this week against Connacht. Rassie Erasmus stated that it was unlikely that Murray would feature against Connacht unless he can prove he is fully fit. This narrows the amount of time Conor Murray has to prove to Gatland his fitness as he has previously stated that Murray must prove his fitness before he can get on the plane to New Zealand.

All Blacks not without injury problems of their own.

All Blacks skipper Kieran Read and loose forward Jerome Kaino are unlikely to play any matches before the All Blacks’ test aginst the Lions. Read had to undergo surgery for a broken thumb following his return to play. Read was the captain for the All Blacks last summer when they took on Gatland’s Wales in a 3-0 series win for the All Blacks.

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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