Warburton to finally make Lions debut

Tommy Bowe is the only Irishman named on the starting team for Saturday’s game against the Queensland Reds

Sam Warburton during a training session. Photograph:  David Davies/PA Wire.

Sam Warburton during a training session. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire.

 

Sam Warburton will make his tour bow when he captains the British and Irish Lions against Queensland Reds on Saturday.

Flanker Warburton, who missed the opening two games while he recovered from a knee injury, will pack down in the back row alongside his Wales team-mates Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau.

Centre Manu Tuilagi and wing Tommy Bowe, who started against Western Force on Wednesday, also feature. Ireland’s Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton are named among the replacements.

The return of experienced loosehead Gethin Jenkins for his first match of his third Lions tour is a welcome boost to Gatland, who could soon lose Cian Healy to injury, a ban or both.

The Irishman damaged ligaments in his left ankle in Wednesday’s 69-17 demolition of Western Force and will face a disciplinary hearing in Brisbane on Friday after he was cited for biting Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan.

The team bears some resemblance to that which beat the Barbarians 59-8 last weekend with England’s Owen Farrell returning at flyhalf and Scot Stuart Hogg at fullback.

England’s Tuilagi will start at centre with Jonathan Davies moving inside to accommodate him and his fellow Welshman Jamie Roberts left out of the team altogether.

England’s Ben Youngs gets his first start of the tour at scrumhalf and Irish winger Bowe, a try scorer yesterday, is one of the few players retained from the victory over the Force with Alex Cuthbert on the other wing.

Warburton features in an imposing all-Welsh back row with number eight Toby Faletau and blindside Dan Lydiate and a fourth Welsh back-rower Justin Tipuric starts on the bench.

England’s Geoff Parling, who came off the bench to score try in Perth, gets his first start of the tour alongside Scot Richie Gray in the second row. Two more Englishmen, hooker Tom Youngs and prop Matt Stevens, start for the first time alongside Jenkins in the front row having been replacements in the first two matches.

Warburton told reporters: “I wish the game was tomorrow, really. I am just dying to get on the pitch. It can’t come quick enough.

“Since we got together as a squad it has been amazing. I have absolutely loved it, even though I haven’t played. I don’t feel left out at all. Now I have got a chance on Saturday. I have been thinking about this game for quite a while now, and I am absolutely desperate to get on the pitch.

“All the back-rowers have done exceptionally well, which I am sure makes selection very tough. Those Test spots are what everyone is playing for, at the end of the day.”

Lions: Stuart Hogg (Scotland); Alex Cuthbert (Wales), Manu Tuilagi (England), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ireland); Owen Farrell (England), B Youngs (England); Gethin Jenkins (Wales), Tom Youngs (England), Matt Stevens (England), Richie Gray (Scotland), Geoff Parling (England), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Sam Warburton (Wales, capt), Toby Faletau Wales). Replacements: Richard Hibbard (Wales), Mako Vunipola (England), Adam Jones (Wales), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Conor Murray (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), George North (Wales).