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Nic Ladds 26th May 2009 - 19:44

Wounded Lions repaired and ready for blood

It's been quite a couple of weeks for the Lions squad with numerous injuries and suspensions depleting the squad but they can still be backed at odds of 2/1 to take the series.

It just seem to be one thing after another for the unlucky Lions side and with the first match in South Africa due to take place on Saturday they cannot afford to lose any more key players.

The series outright betting remains totally unchanged with South Africa still available at 2/5 in the betting to gain revenge for their 2-1 defeat in 1997 and the unlikely draw is 25/1.

So what's changed and how will this affect the betting the chances of the Lions recording a famous victory?

Firstly Leigh Halfpenny the Wales and Cardiff full-back and winger has been ruled out for at least some of the tour for surgery on his thigh.

This is a huge blow as he is one of only three recognised kickers; the other two being fly half's Ronan O'Gara and Stephen Jones.

As a result Ian McGeechan has called up Wales utility man James Hook who is an accomplished spot kicker if needed having kicked over 200 points for Wales.

On top of this he has also played in the same Welsh side as Mike Phillips, Stephen Jones, Jamie Roberts, Shane Williams and Lee Byrne so he should slot in comfortably and in virtually any position if needed.

Irish scrum half Tomas O'Leary has been hit by an injury which gives a chance to Scotland's Mike Blair who is an able deputy should he get his chance.

Another Scotland player Euan Murray has been called in, as an extra hooker after the Irish forward Jerry Flannery was pulled out injured.

Flannery has been arguably the most in form player over the last two years and he anchored the Irish scrum superbly in the Six Nations, but it is a great chance for the Scot to show what he can do surrounded by quality players as opposed to the weak Scotland side.

Alan Quinlan who was a surprise inclusion in the squad has left in slightly more acrimonious circumstances as he has received a lengthy suspension for gouging. However, many believe that this is no great loss as superb Leicester back-rower Tom Croft has been included and as he was on the verge in the first place he should be more than capable of making a name for himself on the world stage.

Finally Tom Shanklin, the Wales centre is also crocked for the tour and somewhat surprisingly no replacement has been called in his place.

Fears about Brian O'Driscoll not being able to travel due to a minor shoulder injury sustained in the Heineken Cup final have been eased as he has come out and said it is not serious and he will be fine to play, although he may not be risked in the earlier matches.

Should anyone else come out there is a couple of stars who many would have actually in the first choice XV including England's Six Nations star Delon Armitage, controversial but talented youngster Danny Cipriani and Scotland's star kicker Chris Patterson.

So has the affected the match odds? Yes it has. While it does not take place until the 20 June, South Africa have been cut from 7/4 to 6/4 to whitewash the Lions and win 3-0.

At the same time, a 2-1 victory in favour of the Springboks has been eased from 6/4 to 7/4.

For those who think the finest the UK and Ireland has to offer then the Lions to win 3-0 is 16/1 in the betting and the more likely Lions to win 2-1 is 10/3.

There are a host of other markets already available including home and away team winning margins, race to ten points, highest scoring half and many more so you can capture those great early prices.

So will the injuries massively affect the Lions chances? The losses of Shanklin and Flannery are a huge blow but there is enough strength in depth in the squad for the Lions to be able to cope.

With McGeechan back coaching the side it should be a lot more organised than the chaos that ensued when Clive Woodward took them to New Zealand so don't expect to see a complete rout this time around as McGeechan knows how to go about things having won in South Africa back in 1997.

The first game takes place on 30 May against Highveld XV and it should be a nice easy start in the build up to the first of three Tests against South Africa and providing the Lions don't suffer too many more injuries in the build up matches there is no reason why they can't push the World Champions all the way.

Below is the updated squad list

Position Player Age Club Country
Full-back Lee Byrne 28 Ospreys Wales
Full-back Rob Kearney 23 Leinster Ireland
Wing Shane Williams 32 Ospreys Wales
Wing Ugo Monye 26 Harlequins England
Wing Luke Fitzgerald 21 Leinster Ireland
Wing Tommy Bowe 25 Ospreys Ireland
Centre Jamie Roberts 22 Cardiff Blues Wales
Centre Brian O'Driscoll 30 Leinster Ireland
Centre Keith Earls 21 Munster Ireland
Fly-half James Hook 23 Ospreys Wales
Centre Riki Flutey 29 Wasps England
Fly-half Stephen Jones 31 Llanelli Scarlets Wales
Fly-half Ronan O'Gara 32 Munster Ireland
Scrum-half Mike Phillips 26 Ospreys Wales
Scrum-half Harry Ellis 26 Leicester England
Scrum-half Mike Blair 28 Edinburgh Scotland
Prop Gethin Jenkins 28 Cardiff Blues Wales
Prop Adam Jones 28 Ospreys Wales
Prop Andrew Sheridan 29 Sale England
Prop Phil Vickery 33 Wasps England
Prop Euan Murray 28 Northampton Scotland
Hooker Ross Ford
25 Edinburgh Scotland
Hooker Lee Mears 30 Bath England
Hooker Matthew Rees 28 Llanelli Scarlets Wales
Lock Paul O'Connell 29 Munster Ireland
Lock Alun Wyn Jones 23 Ospreys Wales
Lock Donncha O'Callaghan 30 Munster Ireland
Lock Nathan Hines 32 Perpignan Scotland
Lock Simon Shaw 35 Wasps England
Back-row Andy Powell 27 Cardiff Blues Wales
Back-row Jamie Heaslip 25 Leinster Ireland
Back-row Tom Croft
23 Leicester England
Back-row Martyn Williams 33 Cardiff Blues Wales
Back-row David Wallace 32 Munster Ireland
Back-row Joe Worsley 31 Wasps England
Back-row Stephen Ferris 23 Ulster Ireland

British and Irish Lions fixtures


Date Opponent Venue
30 May Highveld XV Royal Bakofeng, Rustenburg
3 June Golden Lions Ellis Park, Johannesburg
6 June Cheetahs Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
10 June Sharks ABSA Park, Durban
13 June Western Province Newlands, Cape Town
16/17 June Coastal XV Port Elizabeth (TBC)
20 June South Africa ABSA Park, Durban
23 June Emerging Springboks Newlands, Cape Town
27 June South Africa Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
4 July South Africa Ellis Park, Johannesburg

Don't forget to have a watch of how the Test's unfolded and ended in success last time the Lions were in South Africa.

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