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'At least it's not missing out on a tour': Lions issue Fagerson, Watson injury update

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Lions assistant coach Gregor Townsend has shed light on the training ground injuries that have ruled fellow Scots Zander Fagerson and Hamish Watson out of starting XV that will face Japan this Saturday at Murrayfield. Both forwards were originally chosen in the Lions team named by boss Warren Gatland on Tuesday to take on the Japanese in their eve-of-departure match before they fly down to South Africa.    

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With the warm-up outing taking place in Edinburgh in front of a 16,500 attendance, Gatland was keen to get some Scotland players into his team and the four he picked were set to run out alongside six Irish and five Welsh. 

However, a back spasm sidelined Fagerson and a concussion ruled out Watson, reducing the Scottish contingent to just two and increasing the Irish and Welsh representation to a respective seven and six players after Tadhg Furlong and Justin Tipuric were brought into a starting Lions XV that contains no English player for the first time since 1950.

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While disappointed that his fellow Scots will have to sit out the game, Townsend insisted the silver lining was that both players will be healthy enough to fly out and that the setback of missing out on the Japanese game is minor in the context of the overall Lions tour picture.

“We were still hoping this morning [Thursday] Zander would turn it around,” explained Townsend at a media briefing in the Channel Island of Jersey prior to the squad flying up to Scotland. “He had a back spasm in the scrum session on Tuesday and he and the medics have been working really hard to get him fit for this weekend, but it wasn’t worth pushing.

“He still felt some pain today. It’s the first game on tour and we now have three tightheads here so the best decision for the tour party and for Zander was not to play this weekend. So disappointing for him, and Hamish too, just an accidental clash in the training session on Tuesday but he was on the bike today so that means he is on the return to play protocol so you just hope that goes through smoothly and he will be available next week.

“At least it is not missing out on a tour or missing out on a Test match. Those are the big ones. This game means a lot to the players that get selected, the fact we are having a crowd this weekend and it is in Scotland, but I’m sure the silver lining is they are not serious injuries and they are not missing playing for the Lions. Zander and Hamish are in good hands to get ready for the next game… I’m sure they will be raring to go when we get to South Africa.”

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