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Concerns Grow For Five Potential Lions Starters Currently Out Injured

One week from now the wait will be over and Lions hopefuls will know if they have met the criteria sought by British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland.

The 37-man squad will comprise of the very best the home nations have to offer and following the recently concluded Six Nations championships and the ongoing club competitions, we generally have a solid appreciation of who will be named and who won’t.

In recent weeks however, the picture presenting itself to Gatland has become far less clear than it was this time last month. In that time, no less than five potential Lions starters have suffered injuries that have and will keep them out of action for anything up to two months.

Ireland’s Conor Murray, CJ Stander and Jamie Heaslip are all presumed Lions and all are currently sidelined. Murray suffered a stinger injury to his upper arm against Wales back in March and has yet to return for Munster, prompting fears the injury might have caused more damage than originally thought.

Munster Rugby Squad Training, UL, Limerick 14/9/2016 Conor Murray Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson

Heaslip remains absent with a back injury, while Stander races to recover from an ankle injury suffered against Toulouse in the Champions Cup quarter-final.

Across the channel in Wales, both Alun Wyn Jones and Sam Warburton are similarly sidelined, with shoulder and knee injuries respectively.

Both are now in a race to return ahead of the summer tour but question marks remain over the pair who are considered the two in the running for the honour of Lions captain.

Collectively, these five represent an incredible amount of international experience, with over 300 caps between them. Four have enjoyed the taste of a Lions tour series victory, with Stander the only man yet to don the famous red jersey.

Gatland has the luxury of choosing one of the strongest squads in recent memory but now with injuries mounting before they even board the plane south, he has suddenly been dealt a bum hand.

With the first of ten matches not set to take place until the first week of June, all five injury concerns have ample time to recover and get back to match fitness.

We will therefore likely see them all named next week in the 37-man squad. However, like all Lions tours, attrition will take its toll and those on the fringes of selection will likely be called upon at some stage in the tour.

Though there is awesome strength and depth in the pool of candidates ready to step up, Gatland will certainly not be overly delighted with the question marks hanging over the heads of some of his best players and leaders.

As the four home countries draw closer and band together ahead of the highly anticipated tour of New Zealand, we all hope these injury concerns abate long before the plane takes off next month.

Gary Brennan, Pundit Arena

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