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05th Jul 2017

Lions forced to fret over Welsh star’s fitness just hours before team announcement

Would require a straight swap

Patrick McCarry

He has been in good form too.

The Lions team to play New Zealand is named at 8pm on Wednesday [7am Thursday NZ] and Warren Gatland has an injury headache to deal with.

Shortly after Ireland’s Jared Payne was ruled out of the tour with persistent migraine issues, assistant Lions coach Neil Jenkins faced the press and delivered a squad update. Test fullback Liam Williams did not train on Wednesday but Jenkins tried his best to play it down.

“Today is the time to switch on again,” he said.

“It’s been intense. We know what’s coming our way. As Graham Henry once said about All Black losses, their boys will have been eating barbed wire from Saturday onwards. 

“Liam is just a little bit tight, but he’ll be fine. It’s probably precautionary.”

Probably. Doesn’t exactly fill us with confidence.

Williams was an attacking sensation in the First Test and caused All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg some trouble in last weekend’s Lions victory in Wellington.

Given the Lions’ downtime in Queenstown – there was one on-field training session scheduled in – this means Williams will not have trained before the Lions team is named. There is a chance that his body is simply being managed at the tail-end of what has been a long season but the update is cause for concern.

Gatland could switch Anthony Watson to fullback and bring in a winger, such as Jack Nowell or Tommy Seymour. He could also leave Watson and Elliot Daly on their respective wings and promote Nowell from the bench.

The cleaner switch would see Leigh Halfpenny come back into the squad and straight into the starting XV.

Were Williams past fit, we expect there to be just one change with Jack McGrath in line to replace Mako Vunipola:

All the speculation will end at 8pm.