The British and Irish Lions have ruled out James Hook and Euan Murray from their selection plans for Saturday's first Test against world champions South Africa. Both players suffered injuries during a bruising 20-8 victory over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth yesterday. The fly-half Hook was on the receiving end of a high tackle which left him nursing a bang to his neck and head. Murray went off with a sprained ankle and although an x-ray has revealed no fracture, he will not be considered for the Test team.
While neither were considered first-choice selections, Hook's absence will rob the Lions of a versatile, impact player off the bench. "James has the ability to play 10, 13, 15 and you are going to miss a player of James's quality," Lions' assistant coach Rob Howley said, adding that the Lions had been the victims of some unsavoury incidents. "There was a cynical mark on the game. I think there were a lot of off-the-ball incidents that were not picked up by neither touch judge nor referee.
"The Southern Kings were very physical and there were two off-the-ball incidents involving Gordon D'Arcy that were, for whatever reasons, undetected." Howley said. Lions' head coach Ian McGeechan is due to announce his Test side tomorrow. Although yesterday's match was an often brutal affair, the match citing commissioner has opted to take no further action against any players. As part of the Lions' tour agreement in South Africa, he had a 12-hour window to make a citing but has decided not to go down that route.
* With agencies