'Steroids' to heal Lions skipper

Thu, 30 May 2013 15:35
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The B&I Lions are confident captain Sam Warburton would be fit for the Test series against Australia.

The British and Irish Lions revealed that captain Sam Warburton is laid up with a knee ligament injury, but said they were confident he would be fit for the Test series against Australia.

Warburton, who will miss Saturday's tour opener against the Barbarians, has been given a steroid injection and ordered to rest the knee for five days, after taking a knock in training 10 days ago, coach Warren Gatland said.

Gatland's more detailed account of the injury to Warburton's medial collateral ligament (MCL), one of the main ligaments of the knee, comes a day after attack coach Rob Howley dismissed the problem as a "slight bump".

"He's had a bit of a sore knee for the last 10 days," said Gatland, who also played down its significance.

"We spoke to the medics yesterday [Wednesday] and they've given him an injection and told him to stay off it for about five days.

"He was desperate to play and could have done if he had been taking a few anti-inflams [anti-inflammatories]. But we just felt that so early in the tour, it wasn't worth the risk," Gatland told reporters in Hong Kong.

"It is a slight MCL but the medics are happy that it's just a bit sore and just needed a steroid in there to hopefully improve it in the next four or five days."

Warburton was left out of the Lions team announced on Thursday, with Ireland's Paul O'Connell standing in as captain and Justin Tipuric taking his Wales captain's place at openside flank.

The Lions depart for Australia late on Sunday and will play five tour matches there before the first of three Tests in Brisbane on June 22, giving Warburton, 24, just over three weeks to recover.

"It is better for now to keep him off the knee," Gatland said.

"The last thing we wanted to do was get through the next three or four weeks then all of a sudden come into Test week and not have him fit and available.

"It is just precautionary."

O'Connell, who captained the 2009 Lions in South Africa and toured New Zealand in 2005, is the only Irish player named in the starting 15 for Saturday's game at Hong Kong Stadium.

"I am disappointed for Sam," O'Connell said.

"He has run a great ship for the last two weeks so I am sure he is disappointed not to lead the boys out for the first game.

"I got to do that last time around so I am sure he is disappointed, but I am thrilled and really looking forward to it."

Gatland said he had no hesitation in handing the honour of leading the Lions to O'Connell.

"It was a pretty easy decision," said the New Zealander.

"He has been great around the squad for the last few weeks. It was probably a blessing that Munster got knocked out [of the European Cup] and he brings experience into the team.

"He has done a great job supporting Sam and given us some general leadership."

Despite the absence of Warburton, Gatland was still able to name an all-Wales back row of Tipuric, Toby Faletau and Dan Lydiate, among nine Welshman in the side.

AFP

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