Williams emerges as injury concern ahead of Lions team naming

The Lions are expecting Jordie Barrett to start at fullback for the All Blacks.

Murray Kinsella reports from Queenstown

FULLBACK LIAM WILLIAMS has emerged as a late injury concern for the Lions ahead of their team announcement later today after sitting out the latter stages of training in Queenstown on Wednesday.

Warren Gatland will name his match day 23 for the third Test against the All Blacks at 8pm Irish time on Wednesday and while he is expected to back the same players who won in Wellington last weekend, Williams is a slight doubt.

British and Irish Lions Liam Williams during training Williams sat out the latter stages of Lions training. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Welshman was involved in the early parts of the session at the Queenstown Events Centre, where the stunning Remarkables mountains provide the backdrop, but he pulled up later in the session reporting tightness in his leg, with Jack Nowell filling in at fullback in his place.

The Lions gave their players Monday and Tuesday off this week in a bid to ensure they were mentally and physically recharged for the final Test, but Williams is still seemingly carrying a niggle.

However, the Lions are confident that the Saracens-bound Williams will still be fit to start on Saturday.

“He’s just a little bit tight, but he’ll be fine,” said assistant coach Neil Jenkins. “It’s probably precautionary.”

While Williams may be feeling the effects of a long season, the Lions believe their down time in Queenstown will have benefited their players hugely ahead of the deciding Test against the All Blacks.

Gatland looks set to reward last weekend’s matchday 23 for their victory in Wellington by backing the same players, although the Lions do anticipate a crucial change in the All Blacks’ team.

The Lions’ inside information is that 20-year-old Jordie Barrett, the younger brother of out-half Beauden, will be handed his first Test start at fullback, with Isreal Dagg moving back to the right wing.

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British and Irish Lions team warm up in  front of the The Remarkables mountains in Queenstown The Lions trained in Queenstown on Wednesday morning. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Jordie Barrett made his All Blacks debut only last month, coming off the bench against Samoa, but the Lions believe he will be backed by Steve Hansen for the final Test.

That would then leave the All Blacks with a decision to make around who their primary place-kicker is, with Jordie having taken shots at goal for the Hurricanes this season ahead of older brother Beauden.

Beauden missed three penalties in the second Test last weekend to let the Lions off the hook amidst their wild lack of discipline and Hansen may hand the responsibility to the inexperienced Jordie in what would be a big decision.

The All Blacks will name their match day 23 for the final Test at 6pm Irish time on Wednesday.

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Murray Kinsella

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