Gareth Thomas' chances of featuring for the British and Irish Lions in the first Test against the All Blacks are receding almost by the day and it is becoming a cause of increasing frustration to head coach Sir Clive Woodward.
If Thomas's club side, Toulouse, repeat their Heineken Cup victory over Stade Francais in this weekend's French championship semifinal, then the Welsh captain is unlikely to travel to New Zealand until after the final on June 11.
That would render him unavailable for Lions selection until the Otago game in Dunedin on June 18 - halfway through the tour matches - and just a week before the first Test.
Thomas, having inspired Wales to the Grand Slam, was considered a favourite for the Test side when the initial Lions squad was announced. Now it appears he will have little chance to prove his credentials before the June 25 Test showdown in Christchurch.
"The longer this goes on then the less chance he has to play in the first Test," said Woodward.
"We were hoping winning the European Cup would be enough for them but we are still negotiating hard with the club.
"Bill Beaumont (Lions tour manager) is on the case at the moment. We've spoken to Gareth and he is desperate to get out here."
Jason Robinson, who had remained home to spend time with his pregnant wife, will arrive in New Zealand on June 7, ready for the Wellington game.
Thomas's Welsh team-mate Stephen Jones arrived in New Zealand on Monday after helping his own French club, Clermont Auvergne, to seventh place in the championship and qualification for the Heineken Cup.
Those off-field distractions do not help Woodward's ambitions to make this the "best prepared Lions tour ever", but elsewhere things seem to be falling into place.
The squad trained in two sessions yesterday, with half under the Saturday coaching staff preparing for the forthcoming game against Bay of Plenty, the others readying themselves for Wednesday's clash with Taranaki.
And while the environment and the challenge may be new for Woodward, the same ageold principles that carried his England team to World Cup glory still apply.
Victory over a physical Bay of Plenty side is all that matters this weekend, so the Lions can kick-start their tour and begin to build momentum towards that first Test.
"It doesn't matter how you win, it doesn't matter how you get there. Winning is what sport is about," said Woodward.
The Lions were forced into making a change to the replacements when Irish lock Malcolm O'Kelly suffered a recurrence of the abdominal strain that had ruled him out of the Argentina warm-up game. His place on the bench for Saturday's game in Rotorua has been taken by fellow Irishman Donncha O'Callaghan.
The Lions expect a tough encounter with a Bay of Plenty side who last season beat Auckland to claim the Ranfurly Shield and reached the semi-finals of New Zealand's National Provincial Competition. Ten of their line-up boast Super 12 experience.