Belfast Telegraph

British and Irish Lions: Warburton tipped to be back in time and as captain


By Andrew Baldock

Cardiff Blues boss Danny Wilson says that a knee injury suffered by Wales flanker Sam Warburton "won't interfere" with his British and Irish Lions hopes.

Warburton is expected to be named in Lions head coach Warren Gatland's squad next week - and potentially as captain - for the three-Test New Zealand tour in June and July.

The 2013 Lions skipper, though, is unlikely to play for the Blues again this season unless they reach the European Champions Cup qualification play-off final, scheduled for May 27 or 28.

Warburton suffered a medial ligament strain during the Blues' Guinness PRO12 clash against Ulster in Belfast last Friday and is expected to be sidelined for approximately six weeks.

But Blues head coach Wilson does not envisage any problems with regard to his availability for the Lions, who depart for New Zealand in 48 days' time.

Wilson said: "Sam has a low grade medial strain which will put him out for approximately six weeks, which won't interfere with the Lions.

"He shouldn't have any problem regarding the Lions.

"Knowing how diligent Sam will be, with all these things, you see players who get back quickly if they follow religiously the protocol and they get a bit of luck.

"And I am sure that will be the case with Sam in terms of him following the protocol, and then we will see, all being well, how quickly he can come back.

"'Low grade' was the important bit of news.

"Sam is very experienced and a good professional who knows his body. He knows if he works hard he will be back relatively quickly.

"I think it is relatively good news, considering how it could have been."

Warburton is the bookmakers' favourite to skipper the Lions. He has won 74 Wales caps and is regarded as Europe's leading openside flanker, a player key to the Lions' Test series hopes.

The Lions have not claimed a Test series triumph in New Zealand since 1971.

Wilson, meanwhile, did not rule out 28-year-old Warburton being fit if the Blues are involved in the Champions Cup qualification play-off final.

Two PRO12 teams, one from the Aviva Premiership and a French Top 14 club, face semi-finals on May 20-21, with the final the following weekend.

"He might get an opportunity to play before he goes (to New Zealand)," Wilson added.

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