Lions head coach Warren Gatland twisted a knife in fresh Kiwi wounds by suggesting that there will be growing 'concern' in New Zealand about the All Blacks' mounting injury problems.

With just 25 days to go until the British and Irish squad depart for their 10-match tour, their own casualties are recovering well, just as Steve Hansen's world champions are being struck down by a series of medical setbacks.

New Zealand captain Kieran Read is out of action with a broken thumb and veteran flanker Jerome Kaino has had knee surgery, while outstanding hooker Dane Coles and full-back Ben Smith are struggling with concussion.

These are all key men for the All Blacks and Gatland can sense the magnitude of the situation - especially as Coles had already been sidelined since March 18 with an unrelated leg injury.


"They (Read and Coles injuries) are quite significant I think, Ben Smith as well," he told Sky Sports News.

"With Kieran Read, they are saying he's going to be back in time but he won't have had a lot of rugby under his belt potentially before the first Test. Coles seems to have quite a niggling injury that's been going on for a while. It's one of those injuries that is hard to get confidence from and you have to be careful about not coming back too early, so that will be a bit of a concern for them."

In contrast, the out-look for the Lions is improving, with positive bulletins on a trio of likely Test starters, led by the captain, Sam Warburton, who damaged knee ligaments last month.

"He's good," said Gatland. "I spoke to Sam yesterday and he feels he could play now. He's made some really good progress and is really happy with how he's responded to treatment. I expect him to play before he goes to New Zealand.

"Alun Wyn Jones (shoulder) is making good progress as well. He's confident that he's going to be okay as well. It looks like the Ospreys are going to be involved in the semi-finals of the Pro12 and that would give him an opportunity to get some rugby under his belt.

"The prognosis with Conor Murray (shoulder) looks positive in terms of hopefully getting a game for Munster (before the tour). It'll be good for him over the next few weeks if he can get a game."

In addition to these up-beat updates, Northampton are understood to be confident that England lock Courtney Lawes will have recovered from a head injury sustained at Exeter last weekend, in time to feature against Harlequins at Franklin's Gardens on Sunday NZT.

Wasps wing Christian Wade has been nominated for the RPA's Players' Player of the Year award, despite remaining out of favour with England. The prolific try-scorer is joined on the shortlist by club-mates Elliot Daly and Jimmy Gopperth, along with Owen Farrell and Louis Picamoles.