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Saturday rugby headlines amid calls for O’Connell to join Lions and South Africa star in major doubt as squad announced

Here are your rugby headlines for Saturday, June 5.

Call for O’Connell

Sir Ian McGeechan believes Warren Gatland should look to Paul O’Connell to boost his Lions management team.

Gatland is currently considering calling up Ireland head coach Andy Farrell midway through the tour, once Ireland’s summer fixtures are finished.

Farrell has been Lions defence coach on the two previous tours, but McGeechan believes it is new Irish forwards coach O’Connell who provides what the Lions really need.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said: “If there was one Ireland coach I would be looking at bringing in, it would not be Farrell. It would be Paul O’Connell.

“The lineout is the one area in which the Lions have no specialist coach and O’Connell is a master operator. We saw in the most recent Six Nations the impact he has already had on Ireland’s lineout. And while the Lions have very experienced operators in Alun Wyn Jones and Maro Itoje, and while Robin McBryde can do a job, there is no doubt in my mind that O’Connell would add a huge amount.

“Paul knows what the Lions are all about. He has been on three tours as a player, was a wonderful captain in 2009 and if there was one coach I’d look to parachute in mid-tour it would be him.”

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South Africa left sweating on injury worries

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber faces a nervous wait over the fitness of No.8 Duane Vermeulen and scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, after both limped off during the Rainbow Cup clash between the Bulls and the Stormers.

The Bulls edged a bonus-point 31-27 win to keep them top of the standings but the injuries to Vermeulen and Jantjies would have been a concern.

With the visit of Warren Gatland’s Lions on the horizon, Nienaber and Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus will be hoping that Vermeulen and one-time Scarlets scrum-half Jantjies’s injuries are not serious.

Shortly after he walked off the field, Vermeulen, who is a key man for the Boks, was seen with an ice pack on his ankle while halfback Jantjies walked straight down the tunnel for further assessments. The extent of their injuries were not immediately communicated.

South Africa announce their squad for the series at 5.30pm today.

Manu Tuilagi denied first start in more than eight months

Manu Tuilagi was denied his comeback from injury after being forced to miss Sale’s 45-12 win over Harlequins on Friday night.

Tuilagi is understood to have come into close contact with a positive Covid-19 case and is being isolated.

That comes as a blow for the England centre who will be hoping to impress Warren Gatland as he bids to be first in line for a British and Irish Lions call-up should they suffer any midfield injuries. Tuilagi has been sidelined with injury since September.

Sale’s statement reads: “Sale Sharks can confirm that a member of its staff received a positive COVID-19 test during routine lateral flow testing at the club’s Carrington training facility this week.

“As a result, video analysis of training was carried out in line with Premiership Rugby guidelines, and all players who came into contact with that member of staff were directed to self-isolate until further testing could be arranged.

“In consultation with Public Health England a round of drive-through PCR testing was also conducted. That member of staff returned a further positive result and is continuing to isolate.

“There were no additional positive COVID-19 tests and all other players will return to full training next week.

“However, following further investigation it was noted that Manu Tuilagi came into close contact with the affected member of staff.

“As a result, the club will replace him in the matchday squad for the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match against Harlequins on Friday. Robert du Preez will take his place in the starting XV, with Aaron Reed taking the South African’s place among the replacements.

“All players are being tested daily and we look forward to having the full team back in training ahead of the next game.

“The member of staff who tested positive is being monitored by the Sharks medical staff, and in the interests of privacy, Sale Sharks will not be disclosing their name.”

Premiership record 29 positive Covid-19 cases

29 positive Covid-19 tests have been recorded among players and staff from three Gallagher Premiership clubs in their latest round of weekly testing.

Players made up 23 of those new cases with the remaining six recorded by club staff between last Friday and Thursday.

Saturday’s fixture between Gloucester and Bath was cancelled after a number of positive tests at Gloucester.

2,410 lateral flow and PCR tests were taken by players and management in the latest week of screening in England this season.

The latest set of the results are the second highest number of positives so far behind 33 recorded in the last week of December, which saw two matches cancelled.

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