British & Irish Lions
Lions sweat on North and Tuilagi
ESPN Staff
June 14, 2013
Lions winger George North lines up Force flanker Matt Hodgson, Western Force v British & Irish Lions, Patersons Stadium, Perth, June 5, 2013
Winger George North has arguably been the Lions' best player on tour © Getty Images

Winger George North and centre Manu Tuilagi have emerged as fitness concerns for the British & Irish Lions ahead of the first Test against Australia next week.

North is battling a tight hamstring that he picked up during the Lions' 64-0 victory over a Combined Country XV earlier this week while Tuilagi is still recovering from a shoulder knock that forced him out of the clash with the Reds last weekend.

Both players will sit out the game with the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday and coach Warren Gatland has admitted a number of injury concerns could impact on his selection for the date with the Wallabies on June 22.

"I think there are one or two that are a little bit sore that may next week be out of contention because they won't have been fit enough early enough in the (Test) week," Gatland told PA Sport, without naming specific players.

"That is potentially what might happen. By the time Saturday (first Test) comes round, they might all be fit, but one or two are possibly going to be ruled out because they are not fit enough earlier in the week. We've got a few bodies among the backs who have been knocked around, which is why Billy Twelvetrees has been brought in as cover."

Gatland also believes that future Lions squads may need to be bigger to account for increased physical nature of the sport and the subsequent injury attrition rate. The Lions have already lost the services of props Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins while winger Tommy Bowe is recovering from a broken hand. Three players - Alex Corbisiero, Ryan Grant and Simon Zebo - have flown in to join the squad, while Twelvetrees is due to arrive from England's Argentina tour today.

"I think that as you move from one tour to the next, you realise how tough it is, especially for the players," Gatland added. "The game's physicality has increased from 2009 (Lions tour) in South Africa. It has stepped up a level, and players handling two games in a week is tough.

"It is something we need to be mindful of. If you are writing a report at the end of the tour, you need to consider whether there is a case for bigger squads from the start because of this step up in physicality."

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