British & Irish Lions
Flutey declared fit to face Sharks
June 7, 2009
Brive-bound Riki Flutey is set to play for the Lions against the Sharks on Wednesday © Getty Images
Riki Flutey has handed the British & Irish Lions a major fitness boost ahead of their clash against the Sharks on Wednesday night.
The England centre will return to training in Durban tomorrow after recovering from a knee strain that has sidelined him since he appeared as a replacement in the Lions' opening victory over the Royal XV.
Wales flanker Martyn Williams is the only player who will not feature on Wednesday as he continues his recovery from a shoulder problem. But the injury is not serious, and Williams will undoubtedly have a chance to press his claims ahead of the opening South Africa encounter.
The Lions arrived at their beach-side retreat outside Durban last night , targeting a fourth successive tour win after defeating the Royal XV, the Golden Lions and latterly the Cheetahs with team doctor James Robson declaring an unprecedented bill of health within the squad.
"The Lions are in very rude health at the moment," said Robson. "As of now, all but one of the party are available for Geech (head coach Ian McGeechan) to select from."
Robson revealed the full extent of injuries to centre Keith Earls (shoulder) and Flutey, admitting a combination of their determination and expert medical care had avoided a painfully-early flight home from South Africa.
"Keith had a collision-type of injury you see in a car accident, a seat belt-type of collision," added Robson. "He bled very badly into his pectoral muscle, and he strained his AC and SC joints.
"It's testament to his character and the hard work that both he and (physio) Phil Pask, who has inflicted an awful lot of pain on the poor boy to get him back to excellent health, have done. The proof was in the playing yesterday, with him scoring that try.
"That has been, from my point of view, the kind of ethos of this squad. The professionalism they've shown in response to injury has been absolutely remarkable - the best I've seen in any squad."
As for Flutey, Robson said, "Riki did quite a nasty piece of damage to his knee a week ago, so much so that I thought he would be the first person out of South Africa. Almost two-hourly he has been attending treatment, and that includes treating himself through the night.
"I initially thought that Keith and Riki would be going home together, and I think it's just that determination and the care they've had. Phil Pask and Keith Earls saved Keith Earls' tour by the work they have done together.
"And Riki has been setting his own clock. His treatment included a pressure sleeve around the particular area, then you filter very cold water through it. It cools it down and puts it under intermittent pressure as well. It's all designed to help reduce swelling and promote blood supply to the deep tissues."
Robson is supported on tour by another doctor, one masseur and three physios.
"I can't remember any time at this comparative stage in any of the tours I've been on when we only had one person not fit for selection after three games," he added.
McGeechan, meanwhile, will name his team for the Sharks encounter tomorrow morning, with Flutey and Ireland's Gordon D'Arcy possibly set for their first starts.
The Lions are so far unbeaten, having defeated the Royal XV, Golden Lions and Cheetahs. Their opening Test match against world champions South Africa is in 13 days' time.