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Injury could open Lions door for Hartley

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/05/2017 Andrew Baldock

An injury scare to Wales hooker Ken Owens could open the door to a British and Irish Lions call-up for New Zealand-born England captain Dylan Hartley.

Owens will miss the Scarlets' PRO12 play-off clash against Leinster in Dublin on Friday because of an ankle injury.

Owens was one of three hookers named in the 41-man Lions squad for their tour of New Zealand alongside Ireland skipper Rory Best and England's Jamie George.

It is understood that he suffered his injury during Scarlets training earlier this week.

The Lions, currently in Wales for a pre-tour training camp, have already assessed him, and they are set to conduct further checks before next week's training get-together in Ireland.

If Owens was to be ruled out of the 10-game New Zealand tour - the Lions leave for Auckland in 11 days' time - then 31-year-old Hartley would be an obvious replacement.

Hartley, who has won 84 caps and led England to successive Six Nations titles during Eddie Jones' coaching regime, is currently preparing to skipper England's two-Test Argentina tour next month.

He was selected for the Lions tour to Australia four years ago, but then missed out after being sent off playing for Northampton in the 2013 Premiership final at Twickenham.

Hartley was dismissed for verbally abusing match referee Wayne Barnes, and he received an 11-week Rugby Football Union ban.

Owens, meanwhile, has delivered a number of outstanding displays for Wales this season, but he now faces a potential fitness fight.

The Lions' opening tour game is against a New Zealand Provincial Barbarians XV in Whangarei on June 3.

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