Coles, Retallick add to New Zealand injury worries

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Dane Coles.

Dane Coles has now become a major doubt for the British and Irish Lions Tests, while Brodie Retallick has handed the All Blacks yet another injury scare.

Hooker Coles has been sidelined with concussion since March 18, and has now been ruled out of the Hurricanes’ Super Rugby clash with the Chiefs on Friday night.

Chiefs lock Retallick will also miss the Wellington clash, having suffered a concussion concern of his own.

While Retallick’s coaches rate his absence as mainly precautionary, All Blacks boss Steve Hansen will still be anxious to keep him off an injury list already including Coles, Kieran Read, Jerome Kaino, Ryan Crotty and Ben Smith.

“It’s bad news for the All Blacks and bad news for all of New Zealand really,” said Hurricanes coach John Plumtree.

“He hasn’t been able to train hard enough at this stage. It’s hard to say whether he’ll be available for any of the Tests or the first Test.”

Retallick mixes tight-five grunt with auxiliary play-making duties, linking the All Blacks’ forwards and backs in unparalleled style – and Hansen will aim to capitalise on the peerless lock’s qualities when the Lions Test series opens on June 24.

“He took a knock, obviously, in the weekend, and he still had a headache yesterday, so not enough time to pass the protocols, so he’s out for the weekend,” said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

“He did pass the test and we could have put him back on, but we erred on the side of caution there, so I’m happy we did that.”

Ireland took full advantage of Retallick’s absence in their shock 40-29 victory over New Zealand in Chicago in November, with the potent lock sidelined for the Soldier Field clash.

Veteran back-rower Kaino was pressed into service at lock for that USA encounter, and Ireland hassled him off his stride as he struggled to offer the same kind of link play as Retallick.

The Lions would surely seek to mimic that tactic should New Zealand find themselves without their tight-five talisman come the Test matches.

Retallick’s injury issue only adds to New Zealand’s fitness worries, though number eight Read still expects to beat his thumb problem in time to face the Lions.

Blues loose-forward Kaino will miss Wednesday’s Lions clash at Eden Park and is now in a race against time to be ready for the Test series.

Centre Crotty suffered a rib cartilage injury at the weekend, while full-back Smith also picked up a concussion.

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Five key lessons from Lions' opening clash in New Zealand

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Star man: Taulupe Faletau.

Owen Farrell rescued the British and Irish Lions in their first touring match of 2017, a tetchy 13-7 win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians

Here, we examine five key lessons from the Lions’ opening clash of the New Zealand tour.

Sexton not ready to lead

Ireland talisman Johnny Sexton has time to pull himself back from the brink – but not much. If the Leinster star does not impress in his next performance on this tour, he will be a long way from the Test XV. England playmaker Farrell stepped off the bench and immediately conjured the move that salvaged victory for the underwhelming Lions. Sexton may also even have picked up an injury, given he turned down a shot at goal that Greig Laidlaw posted, and trudged off shortly afterwards. Even before that issue, however, this was one of Sexton’s worst performances in recent memory.

Jonathan Sexton.

Jonathan Sexton.

Faletau proved his class

All Blacks great Zinzan Brooke singled out Taulupe Faletau for criticism ahead of this tour, claiming the Wales back-rower did not boast enough “mongrel edge” to impress against New Zealand. Faletau insisted he did not “have any answer for him”, in reply to Brooke’s words, but then offered the ideal riposte on the field. His try-saving tackle in the first half would have been enough to merit solid review, but his overall performance rendered him the Lions’ star man, albeit on a low-key night.

Taulupe Faletau.

Taulupe Faletau.

Hogg has ground to recover

Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg suffered a night to forget in botching two gilt-edged tries, denying first Anthony Watson with a loose pass, and then holding when he should have sent Tommy Seymour home. The Glasgow flyer enjoyed a free-running Six Nations but was well shackled here. That could prove a sense of things to come as the New Zealand defences will know to shut him down at source. And his mistakes in defence could leave him already swimming against the tide for a Test shirt.

Stuart Hogg.

Stuart Hogg.

Sinckler impressive

The Harlequins prop boasted some of the softest hands on display as the Lions struggled to get into the rhythm of flowing phase play. World Cup-winning former England lock Ben Kay joked on Twitter ‘Can we put Kyle at 10 please’. And while that was light-hearted, it underscored the Battersea man’s ability to mix subtlety with the bullishness required to hold his own in the front row.

Kyle Sinckler.

Kyle Sinckler.

Gatland’s son Bryn is bona-fide future star

Auckland Blues prospect Bryn Gatland could even face the Lions again on Wednesday night, in the Eden Park showdown against his Super Rugby outfit. The 22-year-old impressed here in running the show for the Barbarians side who threw caution to the wind in fine style. Gatland’s variety of play, his accurate kicking and his wide passing ensured the Lions were kept on their toes in a fraught first half. Gatland Jr even outshone Sexton, even though the accomplished Ireland fly-half did suffer an unusually off-kilter night. The young Gatland’s performance here was more than enough to indicate he has the quality to thrive at the top level.

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New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 7-13 Lions: Player ratings

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Owen Farrell answered the misfiring British and Irish Lions’ distress call to sink the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians 13-7, as Johnny Sexton endured a wretched night in Whangarei.

Ireland fly-half Sexton trudged off after just 48 minutes of the Lions’ opening tour clash in New Zealand, removed in part due to a potential leg injury – but also after a miserable performance.

Self-employed maintenance engineer Sam Anderson-Heather’s try put the Barbarians 7-3 ahead at the break, with Farrell forced to rescue the tourists in a wholly-unconvincing victory.

PLAYER RATINGS

Joe Marler 6

Rory Best 5

Kyle Sinckler 7

Alun Wyn Jones 5

Iain Henderson 4

Ross Moriarty 5

Sam Warburton 5

Taulupe Faletau 8

Greig Laidlaw 5

Johnny Sexton 4

Tommy Seymour 5

Ben Te ‘o 6

Jonathan Joseph 5

Anthony Watson 7

Stuart Hogg 5

Replacements:
Jamie George (for Best, 49) 6

Mako Vunipola (for Marler, 49) 6

Tadhg Furlong (for Sinckler, 49) 6

George Kruis (for Henderson, 49) 6

Justin Tipuric (for Warburton, 66) 5

Rhys Webb (for Laidlaw, 57) 6

Owen Farrell (for Sexton, 48) 8

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