O’Driscoll: Lions ‘carrot’ for players

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O’Driscoll: Lions ‘carrot’ for players

Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll says that the lure of playing for the Lions on their tour of South Africa will improve the standard of play in the Six Nations.

O’Driscoll, writing in his column for The Guardian, says he foresees players excelling in this year’s championship in an attempt to book themselves a spot in the Lions squad for the tour, with the obvious effect being an exponential improvement in the standard of play on a whole.

“I reckon it’s a wide open championship, and there is a Lions tour at the end of it. The tour to South Africa might not be an overriding goal in the players’ minds just yet, but it’s certainly an extra carrot,” he wrote.

He continued by saying that if you picked a Lions team now, you would see a healthy spread of representation across the nations.

“Maybe a few more Wales players at the moment, as is only right in view of their form, but plenty of Irish and Scottish players in the mix,” he said.

“You might think there would be fewer England players than normal, but for my money England are dangerous when they are written off (anyone remember the 2007 World Cup?) and I wouldn’t be surprised if more than a few of them mounted powerful cases for seats on the plane to South Africa over the next couple of months.”

French trio fit for opener

Benoit Lecouls, Lionel Nallet and Sebastien Chabal have all been cleared of injury ahead of France’s clash against Ireland.

The trio reported for duty on Sunday after sustaining minor injuries in club games. Lecouls hurt his neck while skipper Nallet battled with a rib problem. Chabal was also a concern with a shoulder niggle, but will also be fit for the fixture at Croke Park.

Coach Marc Lievremont will name his starting XV on Tuesday.

Scotland sweat on Murray

Scotland tighthead prop Euan Murray may miss their Six Nations opener against Wales on Sunday.

Murray injured his ribs playing for Northampton in the European Challenge Cup this weekend. The extent of the injury is yet unclear.

Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder said: “Normally, ribs take a few weeks to recover. He is improving, but we don’t know the state.”

Gatland not banking on Thomas’ fitness

Wales coach Warren Gatland admitted that flanker Jonathan Thomas is unlikely to be available for the Six Nations opener against Scotland on Sunday.

Thomas is suffering with neck, shoulder and groin problems and has been out of action for the last three weeks.

“Jonathan is very unlikely to play, he hasn’t taken much of a role in training,” confirmed Gatland.

There was, however, better news on the condition of winger Mark Jones, who underwent an operation to remove his appendix.

“Mark has taken part in training during the week,” Gatland said. “He hasn’t done a lot of contact work so we’ll have to see how sharp he is in the build-up during the week.”

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