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Bitten by a Lion?

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The British Lions tour of Australia got off to a controversial and damaging start with a warm-up match against Western Force. Cian Healy was injured during the match and is a doubt for the rest of the tour. In addition the Irish prop was cited for what the authorities describe as an act "contrary to good sportsmanship".

The act in question was an alleged bite on the Western Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan. Whereas in football, biting an opponent is regarded as monstrous behaviour that merits a ten-match ban and the offending player being driven out of the country by fevered media outrage, the supposedly gentlemanly sport of rugby union treats the occasional nip more leniently (maybe because the players wear gum-shields or because it's not quite as lethal as the other rugby players' habit of gouging).

Lions head coach Warren Gatland, who had warned his players about ill-discipline immediately before the match, declined to take a moral stand. "The citing guys had a look at it but you can't see anything," he said, relying on the philosophical argument that if the cameras didn't capture a bite, then it didn't really happen. Healy doesn't have a reputation for biting. His three-match ban earlier in the year was for stamping on an Englishman.

The citing may be academic anyway. Healy was carried off on a stretcher with ankle ligament damage and may be unavailable for the rest of the tour. England prop Alex Corbisiero has been called up as cover.

The Lions won the match comfortably 69-17. Former England and Lions coach Clive Woodward had been scathing about a weakened Western Force side, with all the key players rested, but it seems the warm-up games are being treated by the Australians as a chance to soften up the Lions before the Tests. If Healy's absence is confirmed then it amounts to a verdict of job done in the first warm-up.

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