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07th May 2017

Dan Biggar’s unfortunate injury could open the Lions door for an Irish bolter

Will Gats look for a little versatility?

Mikey Stafford

Maybe Ulster had the right idea.

With nothing to play for, Les Kiss rested Rory Best, Jared Payne and Iain Henderson for Saturday’s final PRO12 match, against Leinster.

The Lions taken out of the firing line for Ulster’s last game of an underwhelming season – it is a luxury unavailable to teams still in the thick of the battle for silverware.

Like the Ospreys.

The region will travel to Munster to play top-ranked Munster in the PRO12 semi-finals after 40-17 defeat to Scarlets. However, the loss of Dan Biggar after 47 minutes with an ankle injury could rule him out of more than a trip to Thomond.

“We will assess him over the next 24 hours, he is just adding to our list of casualties,” Ospreys head coach Steve Tandy told reporters.

“It was something to do with his ankle, we have just got to dig into it in a bit more detail.”

Warren Gatland named out-half Biggar in his 41-man squad last month and while the Welsh pivot might have been expected to do a lot of dirt-tracking, there would have been the possibility of making the Test squad, with Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell likely to play alongside each other as a 10-12 axis.

Gatland lost Ben Young from his squad yesterday in tragic circumstances, the England and Leicester scrum-half opting out to remain in England with his family as his brother and fellow Lion Tom’s wife has been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Such is the attritional nature of top-level rugby that Gatland will be expecting a significant casualty list – Greid Laidlaw was called up for Youngs on Saturday night – and the Lions head coach surely has another fly-half in mind, should the Biggar prognosis be bad.

Laidlaw’s Scottish team-mate Finn Russell is one option, with England’s George Ford another very decent back-up. However, if Gatland wanted to throw a cat among the pigeons he could go for something of an unknown quantity, a young player in his first full season as a professional, a young player with the ability to play multiple positions and approach the game with an unpredictability that could show the All Blacks something they are not expecting.

He could choose Joey Carbery.

Before this season, the former Clontarf man had played a grand total of four minutes for Leinster but, such has been the speed of his development, he has looked at ease in the Champions Cup semi-final away to Clermont and has scored eight tries in 21 appearances.

He kicked a conversion on his Test debut against the All Blacks as Ireland beat the Lions’ opponents for the first time in their history and he followed that up with cameos off the bench against Canada and Australia.

While he is callow, his selection would not be a complete shock. He can cover out-half and full-back, will head into the summer brimming with confidence and would add something different to the touring party mix.

Gatland could do worse if Biggar is ruled out.

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