British and Irish Lions: Cautious approach for Brian O'Driscoll and George North
Last Updated: 13/06/13 9:12am
British and Lions coach Warren Gatland has stressed the need to manage players such as Brian O'Driscoll ahead of next week's first Test against Australia.
O'Driscoll and George North both picked up knocks during the midweek win over Combined Country XV while Manu Tuilagi is still nursing a shoulder problem.
None of the above trio have been risked for Saturday's game with the Waratahs and Gatland hinted that O'Driscoll is unlikely to feature again until the first Test against the Wallabies on June 22.
"You saw at the end of the (Combined Country XV) game that he (O'Driscoll) said he had done the splits, and he just woke up a little bit sore," Gatland said.
"The thing with Brian is that we've got to make sure we manage him.
"We spoke about that with him specifically before the tour, saying that we didn't really want him to play more than one game a week, and at any stage if his body was a little bit sore we would make sure that we keep him fresh and didn't tire him out.
"The selection was in mind for next week as well. Some players have had two or three games in a week.
"We've got to think about next Tuesday - we've got a game against the Brumbies on Tuesday - and we are still looking at combinations.
"We said to the players that there is an opportunity for the players on Saturday to stake claims, but the Test team won't be selected until after Tuesday."
Wales wing North reported a tight hamstring during the Country XV encounter in Newcastle two days ago, while Tuilagi suffered a shoulder stinger three days previously against Queensland Reds, although he is now training again.
Fly-halves Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell, who were not involved two days ago, are back in the match-day 23 for Saturday's game against the Waratahs.
And Gatland also parades what could be viewed as his potential Test pack of Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft, Sam Warburton and Jamie Heaslip.
"We don't want to pick up any more knocks or injuries. A few players are coming back, which is good," Gatland added.
"We've got almost a full complement of forwards, which is great, but the backs have tended to take most of the punishment, probably because of the way we have been playing.
"We have been moving the ball a lot and playing a heck of a lot of rugby, and some of the metreage that some of our backs have covered and the amount of work they've done, it has taken its toll a little bit."
Gatland stressed that Gloucester back Twelvetrees would be covering midfield and can expect to start against the Brumbies in Canberra.
"We know he (Twelvetrees) can play 10 as well, and he can goal-kick, but it was specifically that we felt we had a lack of midfield cover," Gatland said.
"And when we looked at it and went through the side there was the potential that, for next week, there could have been three or four players that could have been going into their fifth game in a row.
"We've got to make sure we keep a number of those players fresh for the first Test.
"I was impressed with the Waratahs against the Force (last weekend). Their breakdown is excellent, they are a really good outfit.
"They are missing a few players, but to go to Perth and win that game would have given them a huge amount of confidence.
"They had a poor start to the season by their own admission, but they look as though they are getting better as the season has gone along."