Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Doctor marvels at Lions' dedication

James Robson has been on four British and Irish Lions tours
James Robson has been on four British and Irish Lions tours

Team doctor James Robson has paid a glowing tribute to the professionalism of Warren Gatland's British and Irish Lions.

Scotsman Robson is currently on his sixth Lions tour as medical chief, and he says the players' professional and diligent approach to injury management deserves the highest praise. Only two members of the original squad - props Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins - have so far returned home early because of injuries.

And when Robson presents his medical assessment on Wednesday, it might be that just two players - Tommy Bowe (hand) and Jamie Roberts (hamstring) - are the only unavailable squad members. "On this tour, I have found the group of players to be the most professional I have witnessed," Robson said.

"They have been brilliant. You do not have to chase any of them to come for treatment. The greatest motivation for these guys is that which drove them to want to be here. They wanted to be on a Lions tour, and now they want to be in a Lions Test."

Robson expressed his concern after the 2009 Lions tour of South Africa about rugby's general injury rate, but he added: "Overall, we have come back from that brink.

"I do believe that rugby has made a bigger effort. Professionalism of players, the International Rugby Board (medical conference) getting together annually and co-operating together more often are all factors. We have four medics from different countries here, and we have no qualms about sharing information to help the players.

"In future, we might have to look at how we are managing things because we (Lions) are the last of the regular tours that play twice a week.

"That is where bringing people in when you are starting to get depleted means you are not getting people to have to back up by playing three games in a row."

Robson has admitted that Wales centre Roberts is a "grave doubt" for the series opener against Australia, while Ireland wing Bowe is "highly unlikely" to feature as he continues his recovery from a broken hand.

But wing George North, who reported a tight hamstring during the 64-0 victory over a Combined Country XV in Newcastle last Tuesday, is now running again and likely to be available for selection this week, and centre Manu Tuilagi is also battling back strongly from injury.

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