The British & Irish Lions expect injured Scottish duo Zander Fagerson and Hamish Watson to be fit for their opening match in South Africa.
Fagerson suffered a back spasm that prevented him from training on Thursday and Watson was withdrawn 24 hours earlier after being concussed during an accidental collision on the practice field.
They have since been ruled out of the Test against Japan on Saturday, reducing the Scottish representation in the starting XV for Saturday’s pre-tour curtain raiser at Murrayfield in Edinburgh from four players to two – wing Duhan van der Merwe and loosehead prop Rory Sutherland – with scrumhalf Ali Price featuring on the bench.
“It’s bad luck for Zander and Hamish given the Lions are playing in Scotland for the first time ever, but I’m sure they’ll be raring to when we get to South Africa,” attack coach Gregor Townsend said.
“You do have to feel for them. At least they’re not missing out on a tour or a Test match. Those are the big ones.
“Obviously this means a lot to the players selected, especially with the fact we have a crowd this weekend in Scotland.
“I’m sure the silver lining is that they’re not serious injuries and are not missing that plane for the Lions. They’re in good hands to be ready for our next game.”
The Lions will play the first of eight fixtures in South Africa against the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on 3 July when Fagerson and Watson, the current Six Nations player of the year, could make their delayed debuts.
“On Thursday morning we were still hoping that Zander would be able to turn it around,” Townsend added.
“Both him and the medics have been working really hard to get him fit for this weekend, but it wasn’t worth pushing because he still felt some pain today.
“It’s the first game on tour and we obviously have three tightheads on tour. The best decision for the tour party and for Zander is for him not to play this weekend.
“It’s disappointing for him, and for Hamish too. Hamish was on the bike today, so that means he’s on the return to play protocols, so you just hope that goes smoothly.”