Prop Healy: no bite. Fly-half Jonny: no flight

Jun 7, 2013
Gavin Mortimer

Irish Lions forward Cian Healy cleared of biting, but injured Wilkinson can't join the team Down Under

David Rogers/Getty Images

There was good news and bad for the Lions overnight. While Ireland prop Cian Healy was cleared of biting a player during the Lions defeat of Western Force on Wednesday, Jonny Wilkinson has ruled himself out of playing any part in the tour.

The former England fly-half turned down the chance of a place on the Lions tour to Australia last month, informing coach Warren Gatland that his priority was seeing out the season with Toulon. Having inspired the French club to victory in the Heineken Cup, Wilkinson was unable to do the same last weekend in the final of the French championship against Castres.

Nonetheless, despite knocking back the Lions initially, Wilkinson had agreed to consider flying out as a replacement for any injured player. But now the 34-year-old has revealed he's the one carrying the injury, a niggle in the groin that required a small amount of surgery. "I've just had a procedure on my groin, a little operation that will keep me out of action for a few weeks," Wilkinson explained. "I'd got to a stage where I wasn't able to train anymore and was going from game to game and suffering on the field because of that."

In truth, the idea of Wilkinson jetting off to Australia on short notice was never a viable option. He's just come to the end of a 48-week season with Toulon, and in a month the club begins training for the 2013-14 campaign. At his age – with or without a groin problem – demanding more from his ageing body Down Under would have been in no one's best interests.

"I'm now going to try and make sure I get back to some sense of fitness and I am far from 100% at the moment," said Wilkinson, who will retire from rugby at the end of next season.

Healy was found not guilty of biting Brett Sheehan after a two and a half hour disciplinary meeting at Brisbane's Hilton Hotel. The panel, headed by  judicial officer Nigel Hampton QC, later declared that "there is no conclusive video evidence of the incident and post-match it was not possible to distinguish any discernible bite marks outside of the 'regular' marks found following a rugby match".

The next challenge facing Healy, however, might not be so surmountable. The 25-year-old prop injured his ankle in the win over Western Force and the extent of the damage to his ligament will be determined later today. If the hospital scans reveal the injury requires several weeks' rest then Healy will return to Ireland.

Meanwhile the Lions are gearing up for their first serious test of the tour, a clash on Saturday against the Queensland Reds.  With nine Australian internationals in their starting XV, the Reds will present a far more formidable challenge than either the Western Force or the Barbarians.

The Lions will be led for the first time by tour captain Sam Warburton, and the Welsh flanker is desperate to play after a knee injury sidelined him for the first two games of the tour. "I am just dying to get on the pitch," said Warburton. "It can't come quick enough."
Queensland Reds v the British and Irish Lions, Sky Sports 2, Saturday June 8, 10.30am.

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