It has been a dramatic day for the Lions as they completed a merry-go-round of looshead props after Cian Healy was ruled out of the tour through injury and then Gethin Jenkinsâ€™ calf problem flared up again.
Healy was already under a bit of a cloud following Wednesdayâ€™s victory over Western Force (or Farce as they are now unofficially known), the Irish prop suffered an ankle injury in the first half and was then cited after the game for allegedly biting the â€˜Farceâ€™ scrum half Brett Sheehan.
Alex Corbisiero was called into the squad last night as cover for the Leinsterman but was not due to arrive until Saturday evening so Mako Vunipola was asked to be in the match 23 for the third game running, starting from the bench with Gethin Jenkins in the starting fifteen.
However this morning things had looked to be brightening up for Healy after it was revealed that his ankle was not broken and that the citing officer had cleared him of any wrongdoing, citing a lack of evidence.
Healy spoke of his relief afterwards, saying: â€œI am very relieved that the hearing has cleared me of such an allegation. I was naturally very disappointed that there was a citing in the first place.
I always maintained that nothing happened and that I had done nothing illegal. The opposition playerâ€™s arm hit me. It is as simple as that.
The support I had from the management and all the lads was wonderful and I am glad that it is all over.â€
Just hours later though it was revealed that his tour was over after significant ankle ligament damage had been found following scans.
At the same time it was also announced that Gethin Jenkins had felt a recurrence of the calf strain that had kept him out of the first two matches during the captainâ€™s run and that he would have to be withdrawn from the starting fifteen against the Queensland Reds.
The statement went on to explain that Scotland prop Ryan Grant had been called up as emergency cover and would be arriving in Brisbane tomorrow, though after the match, meaning Mako Vunipola starts at loosehead with Dan Cole drafted onto the bench, nominally as a loosehead replacement, despite being a tighthead.
It has been a chaotic time for the Lions management and players alike with looseheads coming and going like flies but with Grant and Corbisiero arriving tomorrow, and Jenkins hopefully just a short-term absentee; they will hope that the position can now regain some stability.
Explaining the injury situation, Warren Gatland said:
â€œFirstly, our thoughts are with Cian. It has been a day of mixed emotions for him after being quite rightly being cleared of foul play but then the scan revealing the extent of the damage to his ankle. He has made a big contribution on and off the field in the last two weeks and we wish him well in his recovery.
â€œGethin has trained all week but he felt some tightness in his calf today so itâ€™s right not to play him. We will assess him over the next 24-48 hours but Mako has done well in the last two games and this is another chance for him to step up.Â
â€œGiven Cianâ€™s injury we have decided to bring Ryan in. He has played well in the RaboDirect Pro 12 this season and for Scotland in the RBS Six Nations and we look forward to him and Alex Corbisiero arriving tomorrow.â€Â
With Vunipola having impressed in the first two games, and with Healy out and Jenkins struggling, the young England prop must now be considered a favourite for a Test shirt in two weeks time â€“ something that was probably unimaginable to him at the start of the season.
Revised British & Irish Lions squad v Queensland Reds:
15. Stuart Hogg (Scotland) 14. Alex Cuthbert (Wales) 13. Jonathan Davies (Wales) 12. Manu Tuilagi (England) 11. Tommy Bowe (Ireland) 10. Owen Farrell (England) 9. Ben Youngs(England); 1. Mako Vunipola (England) 2. Tom Youngs (England) 3. Matt Stevens (England) 4. Richie Gray (Scotland) 5. Geoff Parling (England) 6. Dan Lydiate (Wales) 7. Sam Warburton (c) (Wales) 8. Toby Faletau (Wales).
Replacements: 16. Richatd Hibbard (Wales) 17. Dan Cole (England) 18. Adam Jones (Wales) 19. Paul Oâ€™Connell (Ireland) 20. Justin Tipuric (Wales) 21. Conor Murray (Ireland) 22. Jonny Sexton (Ireland) 23. George North (Wales).