British and Irish side close to full fitness after game against the Barbarians.
The British and Irish Lions arrived in Australia Monday for a much-anticipated three-Test tour, fresh from a big win over the Barbarians in Hong Kong and with a squad close to full fitness.
Warren Gatland’s squad of Welsh, Scottish, Irish and English stars signed autographs and posed for pictures with red-shirted fans after touching down in Perth, where they will play Super 15 outfit Western Force on Wednesday.
The Lions have not won a Test series since South Africa 1997 but they came through Saturday’s 59-8 win against the Barbarians with no fresh injuries and with captain Sam Warburton now on the verge of recovery from a knee problem.
The Welsh flanker missed the Hong Kong clash with ligament damage but team doctor James Robson said he was “progressing well” and could be fit for Wednesday, the first of nine games in Australia including three Tests.
There was more good news on prop Gethin Jenkins and flanker Sean O’Brien, who sat out the Barbarians match with a calf strain and bruised knee respectively.
Both took part in light training on Sunday and, if Warburton progresses as expected, Gatland could have a fully-fit squad to choose from. He will announce his team to face Western Force later on Monday.
The only injuries sustained in the 32C (90F) heat on Saturday night were cuts that needed stitching, Robson said.
After the match in Perth, the Lions travel to Brisbane to face the Queensland Reds on Saturday.
A combined NSW/Queensland Country side await in Newcastle on June 11 before two matches against Super 15 sides NSW Waratahs in Sydney on June 15 and ACT Brumbies in Canberra three days later.
The Lions then face the Wallabies in three Tests in Brisbane on June 22, Melbourne on June 29 and Sydney on July 6, punctuated with a tour match against Melbourne Rebels on June 25.
Australia coach Robbie Deans is scheduled to finalise his squad next week, having been forced Sunday to make three changes to his preliminary line-up following injuries in Super Rugby.
Replacements were needed following injuries to winger Digby Ioane, lock Sitaleki Timani and flanker Scott Higginbotham.
Melbourne Rebels scrum-half Nick Phipps, NSW Waratahs lock Kane Douglas and Western Force loose forward Ben McCalman were all added to the squad.
Ioane had surgery last week for cartilage damage in his left knee and Deans said he would be unable to train for some of the preparation time in the lead-up to the opening Test.
The prospects of Timani and Higginbotham playing in the series will be determined after they have scans for respective thumb and shoulder problems, the Australian Rugby Union said.