Lions tour in danger of unravelling as Covid-19 issues decimate backline options

The British and Irish Lions’ tour of South Africa is in danger of unravelling after an outbreak of coronavirus decimated their backline resources.

Warren Gatland’s men are reeling from the news that eight players must self-isolate after PCR testing uncovered positive cases in one player and one member of the management team.

As a result of close contact tracing, eight players and four members of staff are now self-isolating at the team hotel in Johannesburg.

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Although the Lions did not reveal the identities of those involved, it is clearly the threequarters who have been affected as four emergency changes have been made to the XV to face the Sharks on Wednesday evening.

Half-backs Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar, wing Anthony Watson and full-back Liam Williams have withdrawn. In come Ali Price, Owen Farrell, Louis Rees-Zammit and Josh Adams.

In a farcical situation on the bench, only Finn Russell is available to cover all seven backline spots as part of a seven-one split on the bench.

Maro Itoje is now among the replacements for Wednesday's clash
Maro Itoje is now among the replacements for Wednesday’s clash (Steve Haag/PA)

Tadhg Beirne, Conor Murray, Chris Harris and Stuart Hogg have been pulled off the bench, with Russell, Maro Itoje, Hamish Watson and Taulupe Faletau their replacements.

Lions team: J Adams (Cardiff Rugby, Wales); L Rees-Zammit (Gloucester Rugby, Wales), E Daly (Saracens, England), B Aki (Connacht Rugby, Ireland), D Van Der Merwe (Worcester Warriors, Scotland); O Farrell (Saracens, England), A Price (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland); M Vunipola (Saracens, England), L Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs, England), Z Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), I Henderson – (Ulster Rugby, Ireland, capt), A Beard (Ospreys, Wales), J Navidi (Cardiff Rugby, Wales), T Curry (Sale Sharks, England), S Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs, England).

Replacements: K Owens (Scarlets, Wales), R Sutherland (Worcester Warriors, Scotland), T Furlong (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), M Itoje (Saracens, England), J Conan (Leinster Rugby, Ireland), H Watson (Edinburgh Rugby, Scotland), F Russell (Racing 92, Scotland), T Faletau (Bath Rugby, Wales).