/ Rugby

Tatafu Polota-Nau likely out of Lions series

Updated: Saturday, 18 May 2013 16:43 | Comments

Tatafu Polota-Nau is likely to miss the Lions series
Tatafu Polota-Nau is likely to miss the Lions series

Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has accepted that incumbent hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will not play a part in the British and Irish Lion series but is hoping flanker George Smith will still be available after both were injured on Saturday.

Polota-Nau fractured his forearm tackling Henry Speight just before during the New South Wales Waratahs' 28-22 victory over ACT Brumbies, while Smith hobbled off on the hour mark with an injured knee.

Deans will name his preliminary 25-man squad for the Lions series on Sunday and looks likely to be forced to consider a further option for the middle of the front row.

"Tatafu right from the outset didn't look good so he'll be devastated," Deans told Fox Sports after the match.

"You don't get the sort of opportunity the Lions series presents very often and it looks like he'll be denied that now so that's very disappointing for him and for us."

Smith, who won 110 caps before retiring from international rugby in 2010, was cleared for selection for the series on Friday only after protracted negotiations with his Japanese club.

An outstanding first half performance, where the 32-year-old had outplayed incumbent openside Michael Hooper, would have banished any doubts that he should have been given another crack at the Lions after playing all three tests in 2001.

"It could be significant but let's hope not because he's very keen to participate," Deans said of the injury.

"We only resolved his elegibility yesterday and he didn't look great when he left but if he's talking positively, that's a good start."

Brumbies coach Jake White later said doctors feared Smith had suffered a medial ligament injury, which would require surgery and rule him out of the Lions series.

There were brighter moments for Deans in the performance of playmaker Berrick Barnes, who turned the game for the Waratahs after coming on as a replacement at halftime for only his third outing of the season.

The 26-year-old has the best tactical game of the flyhalves available to Deans and played in the number 10 shirt in all three tests when Australia swept Wales 3-0 at home last year.

That makes him an attractive backline option for Deans, who said he thought Lions coach Warren Gatland would stick pretty much to the formula he had developed as coach of the Welsh side.

"You've got to attack to win, you've got to find ways to unlock teams," he said of his tactics.

"You've also got to deal with what's coming the other way. And I think it's pretty evident what's going to be coming the other way ... they're going to be direct, they're going to be physical.

"They will play, but they'll play more so after the gainline and with the boot. They'll look to squeeze the life out of us, play a territorial game and bring the ref into play.

"We know what's coming, what we've got to settle on is how we're going to deal with what's coming and how we're going to unlock the game ourself."

Deans will add a further six players to his squad on June 11. The Lions play the Barbarians in Hong Kong on June 1 and arrive in Australia the following day.

(Editing by John Mehaffey)

REUTERS Reut 13:02 05-18-13

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