Cian Healy’s Lions tour looks over after biting incident and injury
Irish prop could be cited for alleged biting incident, but leg injury in thumping of Western Force seems to have ended campaign anyway
An alleged biting incident and injury involving Cian Healy clouded a thumping win for the British & Irish Lions as they beat Western Force 69-17 at the start of their Australian tour yesterday.
The all-star visitors swamped a second-string Force team nine tries to two, led by a brace from stand-in captain Brian O'Driscoll and a peerless 11-from-11 place-kicking performance by Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny.
However, the training-style romp, widely expected after the hosts rested most of their best players, ended on a sour note with Healy stretchered off and also facing possible disciplinary proceedings.
Citing commissioner Freek Burger took a statement from Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan, who had claimed in the first half that he was bitten by Healy during a melee. Video replays at the time were inconclusive.
Previous sanctions for biting have been heavy but Healy could be facing a spell on the sidelines anyway after going off with suspected ankle ligament damage and being sent to hospital for X-rays.
"I know much about it as you know," Lions head coach Warren Gatland said. "I think the citing guy has had a look at it and he can't find anything."
Burger was also investigating claims that Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray had trampled Force youngster Ed Stubbs, in what could be a costly evening for the visitors ahead of the test series with Australia.
The build-up had been controversial after the Force, with domestic priorities in mind, named a second-string team including seven who have yet to taste Super 15 rugby, a move slammed as "disgraceful" by ex-Lions boss Clive Woodward.
"Ideally we'd like to be playing against the strongest sides we could," Gatland said. "There is a tinge of disappointment in not playing a better side, but we just have to be aware of the opposition we played tonight and not get too carried away with it."
That gulf in experience, and talent, was evident right from the kick-off as the Lions, on their 11th tour in Australia and playing in Perth for the fourth time, dominated possession in front of a crowd of 35,103.
Fresh off a 59-8 win over the Barbarians in Hong Kong en route to Australia, and despite looking rusty at times, they ran in three tries before the break and six after, many of them under little pressure from the outgunned Force.
Ireland's O'Driscoll, on his fourth Lions tour, led the way with a brace and there was little sign of the bruising encounter the Force had vowed to serve up.
Welsh ace Halfpenny put on a clinic with the boot, slotting a remarkable 11 attempts without a blemish in a virtuoso display, most of his conversions from acute angles, as he racked up 24 points.
The Force did manage a couple of consolation tries in the second half, the first through the bustling work of Richard Brown in the 48th minute and the second from substitute Lachlan McCaffrey in the 63rd minute.
The Lions play the Queensland Reds on Saturday, ahead of the first test against the Wallabies in Brisbane on June 22.
They have not won a test series since 1997.
Gatland said that discussion would take place about a replacement for Healy later yesterday once they received confirmation about the diagnosis.
"He went for an X-ray and it wasn't broken, that's all I know at this stage, so just assume its ligament damage. He may need to have a scan to further delve into the potential of the injury.
"Potentially we will talk about someone tonight who we may bring out to cover once we have found what condition Cian is in and we have had a chat with him," the Kiwi coach said.
"Until we have done that, it will probably be this evening, if it is a bit more serious then we will have to quickly look at getting a replacement out here."
Gatland said Welsh loosehead prop Gethin Jenkins would start for the Lions on Saturday against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, with England's Matt Steven another who could play.
Force coach Michael Foley played down the biting allegation, which clouded the Lions' first game in Australia. "It's been left on the field," he said. "It was dealt with by the referee."