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Paul O'Connell ready for leading Lions role

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HONG KONG - MAY 30:  Paul O'Connell poses after being announced as the Lions captain in their first match against the Barbarians after the British and Irish Lions team annoucement held at the Grand Hyatt on May 30, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 30: Paul O'Connell poses after being announced as the Lions captain in their first match against the Barbarians after the British and Irish Lions team annoucement held at the Grand Hyatt on May 30, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Alex Cuthbert passes the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Alex Cuthbert passes the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  A general view of the Hong Kong Stadium venue for the British and Irish Lions match against the Barbarians on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: A general view of the Hong Kong Stadium venue for the British and Irish Lions match against the Barbarians on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Owen Farrell of the British and Irish Lions catches the ball at the Hong Kong Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Owen Farrell of the British and Irish Lions catches the ball at the Hong Kong Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Toby Faletau cools down using mobile outside airconditioning fans during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Toby Faletau cools down using mobile outside airconditioning fans during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Tom Youngs prepare to throw the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Tom Youngs prepare to throw the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Owen Farrell kicks during the British and Lions kicking practice session at the Hong Kong Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Owen Farrell kicks during the British and Lions kicking practice session at the Hong Kong Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Stuart Hogg passes the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Stuart Hogg passes the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Owen Farrell passes the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Owen Farrell passes the ball during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Sean Maitland, the Lions wing, poses at the Grand Hyatt hotel after the British and Lions media session on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Sean Maitland, the Lions wing, poses at the Grand Hyatt hotel after the British and Lions media session on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  The Lions warm up during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: The Lions warm up during the British and Irish Lions captain's run at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 31:  Owen Farrell of the British and Irish Lions practices his kicking at the Hong Kong Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

HONG KONG - MAY 31: Owen Farrell of the British and Irish Lions practices his kicking at the Hong Kong Stadium on May 31, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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HONG KONG - MAY 30: Paul O'Connell poses after being announced as the Lions captain in their first match against the Barbarians after the British and Irish Lions team annoucement held at the Grand Hyatt on May 30, 2013 in Hong Kong. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Paul O'Connell is in pole position to captain the Lions in the opening Test against Australia on June 22 if Sam Warburton fails to recover from his knee injury.

O'Connell will lead the Lions in their opening game against the Barbarians in Hong Kong tomorrow morning (12.30pm Irish time).

Warburton had to receive a steroid injection into his injured ACL joint and has been nursing the knee injury for the past 10 days, coachWarren Gatland has revealed. He is facing at least another five days' rest, and there are fears he could be sidelined for longer.

If he is ruled out of the first Test – or, indeed, the rest of the tour – then Gatland will be expected to turn to 2009 Lions captain Paul O'Connell, if not 2005 captain BrianO'Driscoll. O'Driscoll is not involved in tomorrow's game.

The Lions management are maintaining a positive attitude in relation to their captain – "he's just got a little knock," said Gatland, but he then confessed that Warburton had damaged his medial cruciate ligament.

The Welsh flanker has been struggling for 10 days and is not expected to train again for another five, leaving him with a huge amount of ground to make up.

Warburton's situation is a cause for concern, especially as Ireland's Sean O'Brien is also still unavailable.

O'Brien has been nursing a "bruised knee" since Leinster's Pro12 semi-final win over Glasgow Warriors, but it is anticipated that he and Rob Kearney will feature over the next two games.

Sitting comfortably in the captain's chair, O'Connell emphasised the need to get the tour off to a winning start.

"It's certainly important to win the first game," said O'Connell. "I remember the first game we had in 2009 and it was a very tough game. We didn't play fabulously well, but we finished well and we got the win.

"It certainly helped us with regard to moving in the right direction and if we can do that again this weekend, it will be great.

"It will set us off in the right direction, certainly," declared O'Connell.

O'Connell is desperate to win this Test series after being a part of two losing tours – to New Zealand in 2005 and South Africa in 2009.

"The guys that have won a Test series in our part of the world are a little bit different to the rest of us, so it's a question of trying to emulate them and there's a big enthusiasm to do that," he added.

Belfast Telegraph