Wallabies, Lions face captaincy crisis
Wallabies, Lions face captaincy crisisSHARE
The deciding Test of a gripping series between Australia and the British & Irish Lions could be deprived of two of the most influential players.
British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton's injured hamstring makes him a doubtful starter and Wallabies skipper James Horwill is facing a potential suspension.
Warburton will undergo a scan on his hamstring in Melbourne, before rejoining the squad – who face a deciding third Test against the Wallabies in Sydney next Saturday.
Warburton came off 13 minutes from the end of the Lions' cliffhanger 15-16 loss to Australia in Melbourne at the weekend and there are doubts over whether he will be able to play in the series decider in Sydney.
"Sam Warburton will remain in Melbourne for a scan on his injured hamstring this [Sunday] evening," the Lions said in a statement.
"The British and Irish Lions captain will then fly to Noosa [Queensland] tomorrow [Monday] to re-join the squad."
After Saturday's match Warburton said team physios would make an assessment on him over the next 48 hours.
"I've got a sore hamstring. I'm not sure, I haven't done it before," he said Saturday.
"This is a new injury, so I'm not too sure to be honest."
Horwill faces another judicial hearing on Monday after the International Rugby Board took the unprecedented decision to appeal a ruling by one of its own officials to dismiss a stamping charge after he was cited in the first Test.
With the first two Tests decided in stoppage time by no more than two points, neither team can afford to lose their leaders.
Australia were trailing 9-15 in the 71st minute on Saturday when Horwill made the bold decision to opt for a scrum and a possible try rather than a penalty kick and a probable three points. His move set up a passage of play that resulted in Adam Ashley-Cooper's match-winning try in the 76th.
"I felt that we had to build pressure and I felt that that was the time to take that opportunity and try to put pressure on them down there because we hadn't had a lot of ball down there inside their 22 to make them defend," the rangy lock said.
Now, instead of concentrating fully on one of the biggest games of his career, Horwill is yet to know whether he'll take the field.
The IRB's New Zealand-based judicial officer Nigel Hampton earlier this week cleared Horwill of stamping on Lions lock Alun-Wyn Jones in the third minute of the series-opener after a lengthy hearing determined that there was no act of foul play.
The IRB now want's Canada's Graeme Mew to review that decision in a new hearing via video conference.
"I'm hoping not to think about that," Horwill said. "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, if I come to it."
Should Warburton be ruled out, the Lions are fortunate enough to have a former captain readily available to step up in veteran Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll.
O'Driscoll has already set about the task of motivating his side ahead of what will be his ninth Lions test.
"It's huge, the momentum from this game is with them but we won't let that phase us, we'll dig deep," he said. "We were able to beat them once and there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to do it again if we can get our game right."
Fellow Irishman Jonny Sexton was in no doubt there were other players to fill the leadership gap if Warburton is ruled out.
"Hopefully, Sam is not too bad," Sexton said. "It will be disappointing if he is out. He was brilliant in the game.
"We've got some pretty good leaders in the squad. Jamie [Heaslip] is the Irish captain, there is Brian [O'Driscoll], Dan Lydiate captained last week and Geoff Parling I am sure has captained Leicester, so there are guys throughout the team."
For Australia, Will Genia has captained Australia previously in Horwill's absence, and the diminutive scrumhalf has already proved an inspirational leader for the Wallabies backline this series.
Genia was instrumental in both Australian tries in the 23-21 loss at Brisbane, and provided some much-needed maturity alongside inexperienced flyhalf James O'Connor at the breakdown.
Sources: AFP & AP