HARLEQUINS and England stand-off Marcus Smith has been called up to the British & Irish Lions squad in South Africa as injury cover for Scotsman Finn Russell, who is ‘managing’ an Achilles tear and will not feature in the next three scheduled matches for the tourists.
That means Russell will not come back into contention until the build-up to the first Test against the world champion Springboks, which is due to be played on Saturday 24th July.
Smith, who featured for England against Canada at Twickenham today [Saturday], will fly to Cape Town on tomorrow [Sunday] to join up with the Lions touring party.
“Finn Russell had an injection today so it’s not a strained Achilles but a slight, little tear which is going to keep him out for the next couple of weeks,” said Lions head coach Warren Gatland after his team’s 71-31 win over Cell C Sharks on Saturday evening.
“We’re going to try to see if we can rehab him and he’s going to be in a boot for the next five days, and then when he comes out of that he’ll have some more treatment, and if he makes good progress then we’ll assess him going forward, and if he’s not then there’s a possibility that he may go home, so we’re just in a wait and see situation with him.
“We’re obviously disappointed for Finn, who I think has been outstanding since he came into camp in Jersey, but we are optimistic he’ll still play an important role in the Tour,” Gatland had said in a press released earlier in the day.
“We have two experienced fly halves in Owen Farrell and Dan Biggar, so it’s a great opportunity for the continued development of Marcus.
“I’ve been following him closely for the past 12 months and I’ve been impressed with how well he’s matured as a player.
“Finn and Marcus are similar in that they like to play with a bit of freedom, so, for me, it’s as close to a like-for-like cover as we can get. We look forward to welcoming him to the group in Cape Town.”