Warburton returns as captain to face All Blacks

by AFP

Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions in Saturday's must-win second Test against New Zealand in Wellington.

 The Welshman was one of three personnel changes coach Warren Gatland made on Thursday to the starting side that lost the first Test 30-15, including calling in Johnny Sexton at flyhalf.

Gatland also picked Maro Itoje to start at lock at the expense of George Kruis, praising his impact off the bench in the first Test.

Sexton's inclusion sees Owen Farrell move to inside centre, forcing Ben Te'o on to the replacements' bench.

Peter O'Mahony, who captained in the first Test, was not even included in the matchday 23 as Gatland called up Warburton and preferred CJ Stander on the bench.

Courtney Lawes was also included in the replacements after a strong performance in the 31-31 draw against the Hurricanes on Tuesday and Jack Nowell replaces Leigh Halfpenny on the bench.
Gatland said he had to make some tough decisions as the Lions seek to level the three-Test series.

"We saw Maro's impact in the first Test and he will bring an edge and a physicality, as will Sam Warburton in terms of pressure on the ball," he said.

"It's tough on Peter O'Mahony who has done a brilliant job for us. We had to look at the bench and we felt that CJ Stander's ball-carrying and defence was the right choice for the bench."

He said the Sexton-Farrell combination in the backline increased the Lions' attacking arsenal.

"Both have played well and it gives us that attacking option in the 10-12 channel," Gatland said.

"We created opportunities in the first Test and there were a few that we didn't finish."

Meanwhile, Welsh winger George North and Ireland centre Robbie Henshaw have been ruled out of the rest of the British and Irish Lions tour in New Zealand with injuries.

The Lions said North and Henshaw picked up the injuries during their team's 31-all draw with the Hurricanes on Tuesday and would return home.

North tore a hamstring and Henshaw ripped a pectoral muscle.

The Hurricanes game was the last of the Lions' midweek matches, with only two Tests remaining on the tour, including one in Wellington.

North scored a try against the Hurricanes and the giant winger was considered an outside chance of figuring in the remaining Tests as coach Gatland looks for a greater physical presence.


Lions to team face the All Blacks, on Saturday in Wellington.

1. Mako Vunipola

2. Jamie George

3. Tadhg Furlong 

4. Maro Itoje

5. Alun Wyn Jones

6. Sam Warburton (c)

7. Sean O'Brien

8. Taulupe Faletau

9. Conor Murray 

10. Johnny Sexton

11. Elliot Daly

12. Owen Farrell

13. Jonathan Davies

14. Anthony Watson

15. Liam Williams 


16. Ken Owens

17. Jack McGrath

18. Kyle Sinckler

19. Courtney Lawes

20. CJ Stander

21. Rhys Webb

22. Ben Te'o

23. Jack Nowell

The All Blacks take on the British & Irish Lions, LIVE this Saturday on FOX Sports 501 form 5:35pm AEST