- Lions sweat on fitness of Corbisiero, Roberts and Phillips
- Irvine confident of dealing with loss of captain Warburton
British and Irish Lions tour manager Andy Irvine is hopeful that Alex Corbisiero, Jamie Roberts and Mike Phillips will be all available for selection ahead of the deciding third Test against Australia in Sydney.
A strain to Corbisiero’s calf meant the England loosehead missed this weekend’s loss in Melbourne, while scrum half Phillips was ruled out of the agonising 16-15 loss due to a niggling knee problem that has dogged his trip.
Wales centre Roberts has not even featured in either Test after the Lions’ 2009 player of the series damaged a hamstring during the 47-17 defeat of the Waratahs on June 15.
However, given the tourists’ somewhat stuttering performance at the Etihad Stadium, each of the trio is likely to be involved in the match-day 23 should they pass fitness tests – with Corbisiero’s solidity at set-piece and Robert's ability to get over the gain-line especially vital.
“The final decision won’t be made until tomorrow, but they have all made good progress,” said Irvine.
“The medics are reasonably hopeful, but we can’t say for certain at this moment.”
Photo: Getty Images
After paying tribute to skipper Sam Warburton – who turned in an exceptional, all-action showing on Saturday before leaving the fray on 66 minutes with a tour-ending hamstring tear – Irvine praised the strength in depth of the back row.
With both Sean O’Brien and Justin Tipuric in fantastic form, the nine-Test former Lion suggested that whoever wears the number seven shirt could influence the game from openside.
“This is one of the biggest games that the Lions have played in the last 30 or 40 years, so obviously we’d love to have our captain.”
“It’s a big blow, we can’t hide from that – but it’s one of the positions in the touring party where we have tremendous reserve strength.
“Whoever was going to be left out in the first place was going to be disappointed. We have seven world-class players there.”
Irvine also gave his opinion on this morning’s IRB hearing, which saw James Horwill definitively cleared of stamping on Alun-Wyn Jones during the first Test – meaning the Australia captain is free to play at ANZ Stadium.
“My view is that it didn’t look clever because the ball wasn’t close to it,” he added. “But I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse in my time. It’s really up to the judicial officer.”