CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand — The British & Irish Lions have allayed any fears over Sam Warburton’s injury, with Graham Rowntree saying the captain is not suffering from a “long-term issue”.
Warburton was left out of the Lions’ squad for Saturday’s game against the Crusaders as he is struggling with an ankle injury picked up in their opener against the NZ Provincial Barbarians.
But Rowntree, the Lions forwards coach, played down any concerns over Warburton’s well-being.
“At this point, he’s missed a couple of days training and it’s not a long-term issue,” Rowntree said. “That’s rugby, he won’t be the only person who doesn’t train fully in the next five days.
“We don’t want him training fully as we don’t want him twisting and turning but he’s running hard.
“But to the people back home: don’t worry about Sam. He’s just having a few days out but he’s training hard.”
Warburton feels the games against the Super Rugby teams will prove as auditions for Test places. Hannah Peters/Getty Images
Rowntree said there isn’t a minimal requirement in terms of game time for Warburton before the first Test on June 24, but will continue to monitor his recovery with no decision made on whether he will play against the Highlanders on Tuesday.
Although the Lions are confident over Warburton’s long-term prospects of being fit for the first Test, they are talking through potential options to skipper the Test side if the injury worsens.
“We’ve spoken about that and the potential of that happening but luckily we’ve picked some good leaders in this tour squad,” Rowntree said.
Saturday gives Ireland openside Sean O’Brien a chance to state his claim for the Test No.7 shirt in Warburton’s absence, and Rowntree has been impressed by how he has fared.
“He’s not played a lot of rugby coming into the tour but he’s trained exceptionally well in the last week,” Rowntree said. “He’s class and a proven performer as we saw in the last tour. He brings many attributes to the game on both sides of the ball.
“I like his energy in the group, he’s impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing him tomorrow.”
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