Should Kearney go home with injury, who would replace him?

Lions head coach Warren Gatland has admitted his first serious injury concern of the tour, with fullback and 2009 tourist Rob Kearney the unfortunate victim. He was a late withdrawal from Leinster’s squad for the RaboDirect final against Ulster, and did not play a part in the Lions’ victory over the Barbarians at the weekend. He has also been omitted from the squad for Wednesday’s game against the Western Force.

Gatland told the press on Monday in Perth: “Rob Kearney’s a little bit of a concern for us at the moment. He’s got a grade one tear and we will see how he responds. We’re potentially prepared that the hamstring injury may not heal as quickly as we might have liked and we will put some other potential plans in place.

“We want to give him a bit of time. We scanned him in Hong Kong and it came back as a grade one tear and the medics have put in a plan for the next week or so. We feel we have cover; we have Leigh Halfpenny and Stuart Hogg while Sean Maitland has played quite a bit at fullback. Potentially if we do get another knock we may have to think about a replacement. There are some markers put in place and if he can hit them then we can potentially bring him back. But it’s a little bit concerning at this stage.”

So if he does head home, who might be his replacement?

With England the only nation not represented at fullback, Mike Brown and Alex Goode will be near the top of the list. Goode’s form has waned since making his international debut last summer, while his at times ponderous style is not to everyone’s taste. Brown would probably be a more popular choice, as he offers more counter-attacking ability but is equally as strong in defence.

Ben Foden could also be in with a shout, given his fine end-of-season form, but after sitting out large chunks of the season his inclusion would be a huge leap of faith from Gatland. James Hook is another worth mentioning, given that he can cover most of the back line.

With Maitland able to cover fullback, could another winger be called up? A bolter like Christian Wade would be a popular but wildly adventurous choice, while someone like Simon Zebo would also add an X-factor – and he can play fullback.

A left-field choice would be Jonny Wilkinson – many people think he is likely to be called up at some point anyway, and while this would leave the Lions with only two specialist fullbacks it would bolster their options at outside half, where Sexton and Farrell are currently the only recognised operators. He was also contacted by Gatland initially but only turned it down to focus on Toulon and the Top 14 – with that now having come to an (unhappy) end for him, there is speculation aplenty that come the first injury Wilkinson will get the call-up. Gatland is obviously an admirer, and is his admission that they have ‘plenty of cover’ at fullback a hint that Jonny could be in line for a return to Lions duty?

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

33 thoughts on “Should Kearney go home with injury, who would replace him?

  1. What’s the story on Foden’s fitness? If he is fit then I say get him down there. Beyond that I’d say the NH cupboard is pretty bare.

    Otherwise I agree with this being a way of getting JW down there. Having only one playmaking FH is starting to scare me now. Even at his best Farrel isn’t one to get the moves on and he is certainly far from his best right now. We need a third FH or we could be flying JW in cold in between the 1st and 2nd test if one of Sexton/Farrel gets a knock or even worse has a total mare during the first test.

    1. Should also add that Kearney is a big, big loss. He was regaining his 2009 form. Halfpenny and Hogg are great cover but we will miss Kearney.

  2. Like-for-like, Mike Brown would get my vote – he’s been in good form all season, despite England playing him on the wing. However, we may well see another 10 called up as Brighty says.

  3. I think Foden is the better of the fly-halves left behind by the Lions and fits the game plan a bit better. I don’t think Mike Brown has done much to impress and, admittedly against weak opposition, Fodes looked pretty decent yesterday and was fantastic in the Premiership final.

    It is also a good opportunity to get Wilko up as mentioned. Maybe Gatland could encourage Farrell to continue holding on to front rowers at rucks and see how long before he needs an injury replacement there.

  4. For me it’ll be Jonny. He is obviously wanted by Gatland at some point and this gives him the chances. I think the reason we took three FBs was because all three were so good it was hard to leave one out, when really three full backs is a bit excessive when Maitland can play there, and I am sure Bowe could do a job if need be?

    It’d be Wilkinson for me.

    If he does want a like for like replacement, then I’d have Foden. He is fit now and finished the season in great form.

  5. Why should ” England be at the top of the list because they have no one in the Fullbacks “. This is the BriTish and Irish Lions….only the best should go !!! GO LIONS whoever that is.

    1. Neil, with 37 players you shouldn’t pick a player because he can play in a number of them.

      It is useful of course, but hardly a determining factor.

      1. Agree with Blub. And the point about an Englishman being next can off the rank is because it is going on the premise that the 1st choice from England will be a better player than the 2nd choice from one of the other 3 nations.

        I would say that it is also pretty widely agreed that England have more depth at 15.
        The 3 fullbacks already on tour are the best 3 playing in B&I, but each are 80 minute men, and as such, are head and shoulders above their backups.

        With regards to Goode as an option. Firstly, I wouldn’t take him. But secondly, he has missed the England tour due to injury, so I doubt that he is going to be called up.

        I would go for Wilkinson. Is Zebo fit? Because he is a wing/fullback option, and a great player

  6. Lee Byrne.

    He’s got the Lions experience, and only the excellence of 1/2p has kept him out of the Wales test jersey after his superb performance as part of a winning Clermont side. Proven performer at 15. Hook is too much of a defensive liability to adequately cover 15 imo.

  7. Don’t think we should confuse this with decisions on additional FH cover. Gatland isn’t constrained to a squad size so can bring in another FH at any stage. Although I would have gone for Hook as a utility back in original squad he really didn’t look to great for the Baa Baas, so not sure he is a kill two birds with one stone solution now either.

    We are too thin across the back line without a replacement in my opinion. Foden was super sharp in the prem final, right back to his best, so I would pick him ahead of Byrne. I’m not aware of Maitland’s credentials as a full back, if he is a serious option then maybe a Wade or Zebo could be an option or bring something different to back 3.

  8. It’s amazing all round the selection policy of the deluded Gatland….
    You have both Byrne & Hines, who have been in amazing form for 1 of the top sides in Europe, yet neither are included!!! Matt Stevens!!
    Kelly Brown, who has led the turnover and tackle count in the Heineken and 6 Nations, not in the frame, yet selects players (and I include O’Connell) who have recently come back from long term injuries, in key positions!!!!! Vunipola has been found out and left wanting, at best a capable scrummager, but any bursts around the corner in the past 3-4 matches have quickly been found out!!! Also for good measure, and should he have the nerve; he is playing his starting backrow on Wednesday for the test series!!!

    1. I dont udnerstand your criticism of Vunipolo. He played excellently against the BaBa’s, and is one of the only props in the Northern Hemisphere that doesn’t always put the ball up his shirt and run it into contact. He made one pass that led to a try scoring opportunity, and an offload that also led to a try.

      Harsh criticism, and none of it is grounded I am afraid. If you think Paul O’Connell selection is incorrect, than that is a laughable point of view.

  9. If he goes for another fb then would choose Brown. For me he has been consistently the best premiership fb for the last few years – and constantly in the top 10 try scorers

    His defence is solid, he’s got a massive boot on him and he makes yards and gets over the gain-line when he has no right to.

    1. agree , Brown for me , and apart from what you said, he is so sound under a high ball!!

  10. Foden seemed to have a better game for England, albeit against limited opposition, Brown has to be in with a shout, but Byrne is probably playing the best of all of them and as a replacement shouldn’t have to worry about the French club problem. Maybe Daly was left out of the England squad because knew this was a possibility ………!

  11. Brown has been fantastic for Quins but I suspect that Foden would be ahead of him for a Lions call up. He has more international experience and his end of season form was excellent.

    I would be very surprised if they went for someone like Wade. Being an uncapped Lion would be daunting enough without turning up three weeks late.

  12. I think Zebo could be a good option. Tommy bowe, Zebo and Maitland can all play FB.

    If you want a FB, then I dont think you can look beyond Foden or Brown.

  13. I’d like to see Foden or Zebo or someone of that exciting mold, don’t think Wilko should be picked, whilst i’m by know means farrells biggest fan I still think with his boot he can close out a game in the last 20 barring he keeps his head, wouldn’t mind Brown getting picked either, It would be nice to see Wade get called up as I wanted him from day 1 as something a bit different to North, Bowe and Cuthbert. Big loss though as Kearney is very skilled and he was incredible in 2009.

  14. Goode should be a fly half, he can read the game and can step as well as anyone, but only from a standing start. He offers no penetration. Brown is great, a real terrier and is a direct and muscular runner. Foden is the better attacking player, just. For me Foden might edge it as he’s played at FB at International class more often- I’m also talking about latter stages of HC and Prem. So would get the nod for me.

  15. Didn’t mention Byrne as I only saw him in HC where he looked sharp. If the people that have seen him play think he’s in his halcyon Wales days I’d take him, although he’s often stuttered a bit in big games.

  16. Maybe he will call up Daly from the Baa Baas sqaud. Playing some great rugby, and could also play 13, or wing. Personally I would choose Zebo. Played some great rugby from full back before for Munster and I thought he should have been in the squad anyway.

  17. I’d say Foden given his end of season form. If he wasn’t injured during the AIs and 6N, I think he would be the regular 3rd choice FB anyway.
    Just a quick question on how call ups work, if Gatland does say that Foden is needed, what kind of say does Lancaster have about the matter?

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