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I'd rather earn place than rely on injury to Sam Warburton: O'Brien

 

By David Kelly

Sean O'Brien says he is not relying on Sam Warburton's injury issues in his mission for Lions Test team selection and has put his hand up to play across the back-row if Warren Gatland requires it.

The Lions captain is on the bench for this morning's clash with the Maori All Blacks due to an ankle injury, and is expected to be given some game time.

O'Brien is competing directly for the No.7 shirt but is backing himself to hit the ground running to make the Test side on his own merits.

He was one of the last 11 players to start a game on this year's tour at Rugby Park in Christchurch against the unbeaten Crusaders having not played since April 1 due to a calf injury.

And he believes his period out will stand to him in his bid to claim a starting spot against New Zealand.

"Any opportunity I'm given I'm going to do what I can do," O'Brien said.

"I'm not going to be banking on Sam being injured or not, I'm going to try and play my game and hopefully that's good enough to be selected.

"There's three positions I'm battling for, so the odds are a little bit better in that sense.

"Obviously, Warby is captain but as you've seen a few years ago anything can happen and it's about putting your best foot forward and making sure your hand is up for selection.

"That's what I want to do, I want to be in the Test side, as does every other player. That's just the nature of it. You need one if not two games to get match-fit.

"I've trained incredibly hard over the last six weeks and I feel great. I just want to get on the pitch and play now.

"These games are that bit quicker, so that will stand to me too."

Scrum coach Graham Rowntree confirmed that the Lions are not overly concerned about Warburton's long-term prospects and said he is looking forward to seeing how O'Brien performs.

"He's not played a lot of rugby coming into the tour but he's trained exceptionally well in the last week," he 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 in the group."

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