DAN Lydiate’s dreams of starring for the British and Irish Lions could be salvaged by a combination of his iron will and the backing of Warren Gatland, according to his regional coach.
The Newport Gwent Dragons blindside flanker, Six Nations player of the tournament last season, suffered a broken left ankle after just two minutes of last Friday’s RaboDirect Pro12 win against Edinburgh.
He has gone under the knife and is expected to be out for four to six months, meaning that it is likely he will miss the Six Nations as well as the autumn internationals.
It will also leave the 24-year-old, who has been capped 27 times, facing a race against time to prove that he is worthy of a place in the Lions’ party to Australia in the summer.
His back-row rivals – the likes of Ryan Jones, Stephen Ferris, Tom Croft and Chris Robshaw, among others – will have the chance to impress over the coming months.
But Dragons head coach Darren Edwards believes Lydiate’s chances are boosted by the Lions being led by Gatland, who knows all about his qualities from the Wales set-up.
“I think that he is helped by Warren being in charge – he doesn’t need to be told how important Dan is to a team and he doesn’t need to see how devastating he is in defence,” said Edwards.
“It’s an extremely disappointing injury for Dan because of what is on the horizon but he will do everything that he can to be in the running for the Lions.
“If he came back earlier than is being predicted it certainly wouldn’t shock me because I don’t think Dan’s desire to recover quickly can be questioned.
“We saw in the World Cup (after an injury to his right ankle) that he came back ahead of schedule because he is such a good pro.
“He has been so unlucky with injuries through the years but has come back stronger every time.”
The injury to Lydiate, who is out of contract at the end of the season, leaves the Dragons with pretty big boots to fill.
Jevon Groves, who replaced him at Rodney Parade last Friday, is ahead of Hywel Stoddart and Ieuan Jones in the queue.
Another option would be to move skipper Lewis Evans to blindside with recent signing Nic Cudd coming in at openside.
But it is inevitable that there will be a drop-off in quality given Lydiate’s standing in the world game.
“Dan is such a big figure both on and off the field,” said Edwards.
“He is a world-class talent but we’ve got to get on with it and the other players have got to step up.
“I have confidence in our players and it was great to see Lewis Evans, Jevon Groves and Toby Faletau having great games in the back row against Edinburgh, while Tom Brown made a real impact off the bench.”