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Lions in for anxious wait on 15 players in action on finals weekend

You could almost make a Test XV with the players in the firing line tomorrow.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire/Press Association Images

LIONS COACH WARREN Gatland won’t be able to preside over a training session with his full squad of 37 (or 38) until his team touches down in Hong Kong next week.

For two weeks, the Kiwi has knitted together the majority, but 15 remain with their clubs ahead of finals in the Pro12 and Premiership, and semi-finals in France.

Gethin Jenkins is the one man involved in the Top14 semi-finals, where tonight he will be among the replacements when the Heineken Cup champions face Toulouse.

Packing down

No matter what the result, he will pack his bags on Saturday and head for Hong Kong on Monday.

Tomorrow of course, Leinster’s six Lions will be pitting their wits against Tommy Bowe. And across the Irish Sea, Dylan Hartley will be packing down against his direct competitor at hooker, Tom Youngs and his fellow five Leicester Tigers who are ready to tour.

With titles on the line, there will surely be no player holding back in any of the three fixtures. What has to this point been a relatively injury-free tour for the Lions, could soon have players marked doubtful or ruled out altogether.

“Yeah, we’ll be anxious.” Says forwards coach Graham Rowntree, with some added nerves down to his 17-year association with the Tigers.

Tom Croft will hope to reclaim his blindside spot from the ’09 series. David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

“But I think the beauty of this squad is the squad we’ve left at home. There’s some great players who would quite quickly come in and do a job for us. But I’ll be sat there with everything crossed.”

A further challenge awaits the late-comers. 22 of the squad have been immersed in the tactical nuances of ‘BIL’ for two weeks and the cavalry will have to hit the ground running.

“They’re class enough players to quickly get up to speed with us and they’ll be battle hardened getting on the plan to Hong Kong. I don’t think that’s a problem at all.” Rowntree added.

“Given the nature of those players, I think they’ll pick up systems very quickly, that’s why we’re picking them.

“Given how we’re playing. It’s a very simple shape we have of playing the game. Our calling structures are very simple. Understanding that we’ve got limited time to get things right.”

This weekend’s Lions XV: Kearney, Bowe, O’Driscoll, T Youngs*, Tuilagi*, Sexton, B Youngs: Healy, Hartley, Cole; Jenkins*, Parling; Croft, O’Brien, Heaslip.

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*out of position.

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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