Lions handed boost as Sam Simmonds fit for Exeter’s Premiership run-in

The British & Irish Lions have been handed a boost after Sam Simmonds was declared fit for Exeter’s Premiership run-in.

The in-form No 8 rolled a troublesome ankle in last weekend’s victory against Northampton to give Warren Gatland an injury scare, but Exeter’s director of rugby, Rob Baxter, has allayed any concerns over his fitness.

Exeter host Sale on Saturday in their final match of the regular season and the likelihood is they will do so again the following weekend in the Premiership playoffs as Baxter’s side plot a course back to Twickenham. Simmonds is set for a key role before joining up with the Lions at the conclusion of Exeter’s season.

“Sam is fine,” said Baxter. “It was always very precautionary. He just kind of semi-rolled it [ankle] a little bit. He has been a key player for us, he is having a great season and has been picked for the Lions. It’s great to have him available.”

Intussen, South Africa hope to have Damian de Allende and RG Snyman available for the Lions series after both suffered burns in a fire-pit accident last weekend. The pair will see a specialist on Friday and though the Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber admitted the incident was “not ideal” he is hopeful both will be available for the warm-up Tests against Georgia early next month.

Nienaber is also expecting the Sale second-row Lood de Jager to be fit for the Lions seriesrevealing he could feature for the Sharks if they reach the Premiership finalbut was less bullish over the No8 Duane Vermeulen, who underwent ankle surgery on Wednesday and could be out from anywhere between five and 16 weke.

“I’ve spoken to both of [De Allende and Snyman] and they are fine, so that is the most important thing and their families are fine,” Nienaber said. “Will they be able to play against Georgia? Currently as I’m sitting here, if everything goes according to plan, yes I think they would. The challenge is if they get an infection or if for instance there’s some other medical reason they can’t fly to us as soon as possible.

“I think in terms of that we will have to be adaptable. Of course it’s not ideal. As a head coach you’d want them to be fine and training, but now we have to make plans to get them into the mix as soon as possible while taking care of their wellbeing.”

Pat Lam, Bristol’s director of rugby, is “absolutely over the moon” that the Rugby Football Union is conducting an inquiry into the contentious ending to Saturday’s victory at Leicester. Lam was accused of lying about the fitness of John Afoa by the Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick during a heated touchline argument.

“I was hoping and I am absolutely over the moon that I received an email that there is an inquiry going on, which is fantastic," hy het gesê. “What it enables is the true context and the full story.”

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