British and Irish Lions 2013: Sam Warburton to make bow as captain against Queensland Reds

The Welsh flanker has missed the first two warm-up matches through injury

Lions skipper Sam Warburton will make his tour bow this Saturday against a Queensland Reds side featuring the controversial Quade Cooper.

Warburton, who missed the first two games of the trip with a knee injury, has been named in the starting line-up.

Cooper, meanwhile, will feature in a strong team full of big-name talents and both players will have much to prove.

Warburton has already seen two fellow flankers, Wales team-mate Justin Tipuric and Irishman Sean O’Brien, deliver eye-catching displays.

Cooper, out of favour with the Aussies since describing the Wallaby environment as “toxic”, will effectively be auditioning for a place in the Test series.

“This Lions experience has felt special, even though I haven’t been playing,” said Warburton, who will become the 800th player to represent the Lions.

“I certainly haven’t felt left out of things. But I’ve been thinking about this match for two or three weeks now and I can’t wait to get on the pitch and put in a decent display.

“I think Cooper will pose a different attacking threat to anything we’ve faced so far. It will be good for us: we don’t want our defence to be undercooked come the Tests.”

Warren Gatland, the Lions head coach, promised to give every player a start in the first three matches and has delivered on his pledge — only the injured Irish full-back Rob Kearney will be awaiting a first appearance after the Queensland contest.

Much interest will be focused on the Lions midfield, where Manu Tuilagi, the England centre, will have an opportunity in his favoured No13 position, with the gifted Jonathan Davies, of Wales, moving inside to fill the No12 berth.

Cian Healy, the prop who picked up a nasty ankle injury during yesterday’s victory over Western Force in Perth, will appear at a disciplinary hearing tonight to answer a charge of biting. His tour is virtually over anyway.

“He’s hobbling around and his prospects don’t look good,” said Gatland.

 

British and Irish Lions team to play Queensland Reds on Saturday...

Hogg; Cuthbert, Tuilagi, Davies, Bowe; Farrell, B Youngs; Jenkins, T Youngs, Stevens, Gray, Parling, Lydiate, Warburton (capt), Faletau.

Replacements: Hibbard, Vunipola, Jones, O'Connell, Tipuric, Murray, Sexton, North.

PA

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