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Gatland delivers a depressing update about Russell's Lions injury

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

Warren Gatland has admitted it is possible that Finn Russell could head home early from the Lions tour if there is no improvement in his problematic achilles which resulted in Saturday’s confirmed call up to the squad of England out-half Marcus Smith. 


Russell was due to take a place on the Lions bench for their rematch with the Sharks but he didn’t tog out and was replaced in the replacements by Bundee Aki, a development that Gatland has now admitted is a wait-and-see situation regarding whether the Scotland No10 will play any further part in the tour of South Africa.  

Explaining the background to his call to England to bring in Smith and what exactly is the nature of the Russell injury, Gatland said at his post-match media briefing on Saturday night: “We made a call to England last night [Friday], a courtesy call about his [Smith’s] availability, the fact that we were going to call him up. And Finn Russell has had an injection. 

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RugbyPass Fanzone on whether the Lions tour will be cancelled
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RugbyPass Fanzone on whether the Lions tour will be cancelled

“It isn’t a strained achilles, there is a slight little wee tear in it so it is going to keep him out for the next couple of weeks. We are going to try and see if we can rehab him. He is going to be in a boot for the next five days and when he comes out of that, he will have some more treatment and he will still continue to get treatment over the next five days and if he is making good progress then we will assess him going forward. If he is not there is a possibility that he may go home. It’s a wait-and-see situation.” 

Russell wasn’t meant to be involved in the midweek Lions win over the Sharks but he played off the bench after Gatland was forced to make eight late changes to his matchday 23. He was then due to be on the bench again in the Sharks rematch but he pulled out of a contest where Lions went on to have their problems asserting their authority.  

With the scores tied at 26-all at the interval, winning momentum only swung the way of the Lions when Jaden Hendrikse – a first-half try-scorer – was red-carded on 46 minutes and the tourists went on to dominate the remaining part of the match by seven tries to one to finish 71-31 winners against an opposition they had defeated 54-7 in midweek. 


In keeping with the chaotic nature of the tour, Gatland also admitted he still wasn’t 100 per cent sure of the exact identity of the opposition the Lions will face next Wednesday in Cape Town. They are due to play South Africa A but that fixture is poised to be pushed back until next weekend with the Stormers match being brought forward by three days. 

“There is a pretty good chance they will switch the Stormers and South Africa A game around but nothing has been confirmed yet,” he said. “You have just got to roll with the punches. We had a challenging day last Wednesday and then Maro (Itoje) had a bit of a tummy bug last night and then we had a make a late change, and we had to bring in Bundee too. Those sort of things happen and guys have been dealing with it fantastically. We have just got to go with the flow and react to what is thrown at us.”


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