Lions 2013: Sam Warburton fit to lead against Queensland Reds

By Bryn PalmerBBC Sport in Brisbane
Lions 2013: Sam Warburton relishing Lions captaincy

Captain Sam Warburton will make his British and Irish Lions debut against Queensland Reds on Saturday after recovering from a knee injury.

The Welsh flanker, 24, missed the first two tour games but has now been declared fit to lead the side.

Wales prop Gethin Jenkins also gets his first outing of the tour after shaking off a calf problem.

There are first starts for England quartet Ben and Tom Youngs, prop Matt Stevens and lock Geoff Parling.

Warburton missed the 59-8 win against Barbarians in Hong Kong on 1 June and the 69-17 victory over Western Force in Perth on Wednesday with a niggling knee injury sustained in training.

He said: "I wish the game was tomorrow really. I am just dying to get out on the pitch. It can't come quick enough.

"Seeing the boys bringing their Lions jerseys back to the hotel after games has been tough, knowing they have that jersey to take home with them."

Warburton will be in familiar company as part of the all-Welsh back row - alongside Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau - who were so pivotal in Wales' run to the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup and the 2012 Six Nations Grand Slam.

"It was just precautionary with Sam," said Gatland. "He would have started the first game, but this is a big game for him now and a big game for the team."

Scotland lock Richie Gray gets another chance to press his claims alongside Parling, while loose-head Jenkins will hope to cement his status as the front-runner for the Test jersey.

In the backline, Bowe is switched from the right wing, where he started Wednesday's 69-17 win over the Western Force, to the left flank, with Alex Cuthbert - a two-try scorer in the opening win over the Barbarians - and Stuart Hogg returning to the back three.

In midfield, Jonathan Davies moves from his usual outside centre role to the 12 jersey, while Manu Tuilagi, who started at inside centre in Perth, reverts to his more familiar number 13 position.

Only Rob Kearney, of the squad that left London, will not have started one of the first three games, but the Ireland full-back could return to action next week as he recovers from a hamstring tear.

His Leinster and Ireland colleague Cian Healy, who is on crutches with his foot in a plastic boot, was set to undergo a scan on his left ankle in Brisbane on Friday.

The Lions have already summoned England prop Alex Corbisiero as cover, with Healy having sustained suspected ligament damage.

Healy's disciplinary hearing into allegations he bit Western Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan has been put back until 00:00 BST on Friday (09:00 local time).

"Cian is hobbling around at the moment and the prognosis is not brilliant," said head coach Warren Gatland.

"But until we get the scan, he hasn't been ruled out definitively at this stage."

Corbisiero, who was due to play for England against Argentina this weekend, is expected to arrive in Brisbane on Saturday.

"Hopefully we can get him integrated pretty quickly," Gatland added. "If he hadn't been injured, he would have been in contention as an original selection. It is nice to see him back playing and fit again.

"I think he will fit into the type of game we want to play. He is mobile and a quick learner."

Saturday's game is followed by three more warm-up fixtures before the Lions face Australia in the first of a three-Test series.

Full team: Stuart Hogg; Alex Cuthbert, Manu Tuilagi, Jonathan Davies, Tommy Bowe; Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Gethin Jenkins, Tom Youngs, Matt Stevens, Richie Gray, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Toby Faletau.

Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Mako Vunipola, Adam Jones, Paul O'Connell, Justin Tipuric, Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton, George North.


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