Earls to miss Jozi clash

Keith Earls is the most serious of a lengthy Lions injury list, but Leigh Halfpenny is expected to join the tour party this week.

Earls had a forgettable Lions debut at centre and was unlikely to feature in Wednesday’s match due to rotation, but a shoulder injury has meant he will sit out of training.

‘Keith injured his AC and SC joints in the first minute of the Royals match,’ team doctor James Robson said. ‘He will be out of action for two to three days and it is highly unlikely he will play.’

The couple of late withdrawals in Saturday’s fixture, Andy Powell (hand) and Stephen Ferris (leg), are joined on the medical table by seven other players. Robson said all of these were precautionary measures and shouldn’t rule them out of selection.

Mike Blair (ankle), Luke Fitzgerald, Riki Flutey (both knee), Paul O’Connell (eye), Mike Phillips (dead leg), Ronan O’Gara (shoulder) and Andrew Sheridan (blisters) are all being attended to but shouldn’t miss the match against the Lions at Ellis Park.

‘That list may seem long but it’s better than usual,’ said Robson. ‘In 1997 we had 18 people injured halfway through the tour.’

Meanwhile Halfpenny, who will take over from Earls as the youngest member of the group, is recovering from his leg ailment.

‘I have been in contact with the Cardiff doctor daily and Lee is going well,’ he said. ‘He had a day off on Saturday because he has been very active. He had a good kicking session on Friday and will repeat that on Sunday. After that we’ll assess him again with the view to bring him out on Wednesday.’

By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg