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Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Sunday, 14 June 2009 17:12 UK

Injured Kearney out of Kings game

Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth Date: Tuesday, 16 June Kick-off: 1400 BST (1500 local time) Coverage: Text commentary and score updates on BBC Sport website, updates BBC Radio 5 Live Live

Lions full-back Rob Kearney
Kearney was replaced by James Hook after 66 minutes against Western Province

By Bryn Palmer

Lions full-back Rob Kearney will miss Tuesday's final warm-up match before the first Test against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

Kearney was forced off with a dead leg in Saturday's win over Western Province but will be available for selection to face the Springboks in Durban.

With Lee Byrne likely to be rested for the Test match, centre Keith Earls could be switched to full-back.

Mike Blair will also have a late fitness test on his sprained ankle.

The Scotland scrum-half was forced to withdraw from the bench for the Western Province game after suffering the knock in training on Friday.


If he is unavailable, Harry Ellis, who has a mild chest infection, is likely to start his second match in three days.

The third scrum-half, Mike Phillips, has bruising and stiffness in his back which meant he has unable to take Blair's place on the bench against Western Province.

But Lions doctor Gary O'Driscoll insisted the measure was a precautionary move and that Phillips will be fit to take his expected spot in the Test number nine jersey.

If both he and Blair are unable to feature in Tuesday's 22, Welshman Shane Williams - who may well start the game on the wing - would be the only remaining scrum-half cover.

O'Driscoll also confirmed that another Welshman, Andy Powell, is playing with a "tiny little crush fracture" in his hand, but that there is no risk to the number eight.

"It is simply a question of pain," O'Driscoll said. "He will be sore for a couple of weeks but when you get into a game situation, the adrenaline kicks in and it's fine."

Lock Nathan Hines, who suffered a mild contusion to his right hand on Saturday, and flanker Martyn Williams, who required five stitches in his knee, are expected to be fit for Test selection, as is centre Jamie Roberts, after a 'stinger' to his shoulder against the Sharks last Wednesday.

Assistant forwards coach Graham Rowntree believes the Lions' policy of not over-training players, and a concentration on short, intense sessions, is paying off with no major injury concerns going into the week of the first Test.

Nevertheless the coaches face a dilemma over team selection for Tuesday's game, given the need to keep as many of their likely Test side as fresh as possible.

Rowntree insists, however, that being picked for the Southern Kings game will not necessarily be a sign that players are unlikely to face the Springboks.

These are the world champions, in their own backyard. They are not going to let us push them around

Graham Rowntree

"I want to make it very clear we haven't picked anything yet," he added. "These guys who take to the field on Tuesday have a big opportunity; there is a big carrot there. I think there will be a few guys who play Tuesday who will play on Saturday as well."

The likes of Luke Fitzgerald and Riki Flutey, who have only started one game each, and Gordon D'Arcy - who has had only five minutes as a replacement since joining the tour - can expect to start in the backline.

Up front, tight-head prop Euan Murray and hooker Ross Ford, who have also only had one start apiece until now - can also expect to be in action.

Much interest will be on who starts at loose-head. It is possible that Adam Jones, one of the three tight-heads in the squad, could do a shift there but if either Gethin Jenkins or Andrew Sheridan start, it could point to the other being the likely Test starter.

Many in South Africa believe man-mountain Sheridan will be used to target a perceived weakness in the Springboks front row, where captain John Smit has been converted to tight-head from his former hooking role.

But Rowntree, also a member of England's coaching team, has dismissed the notion that Sheridan is being primed for such a task.

"It is fair to say that every time Andrew Sheridan is supposed to beat someone up, as a pack we don't," added the former Lions prop, who insisted he was not pointing the finger at the Sale giant.

"From my experience with England, I remember last autumn when [Australia prop] Al Baxter was supposed to be quaking in his boots leading into the game and we didn't do a job on them. It seems every time that pressure is put on us, we haven't always delivered.

"So I am not going to fall into this trap again of what Andrew Sheridan or Gethin Jenkins, whoever is on the loose-head, is supposedly going to do to John Smit.

"He is a wily character who has been around the Test circuit a long time and I respect him immensely. He played at tight-head a lot towards the end of the Super 14, he is strong and I don't see that supposed area of weakness that everyone else does.

"These are the world champions, in their own backyard. They are not going to let us push them around. I respect that, and our training will reflect that."

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