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Quinnell: Warburton desperate to impress

Scott Quinnell insists British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton will be desperate to make his debut for the tourists after witnessing outstanding displays at openside by Justin Tipuric and Sean O'Brien.

Warburton has missed the opening two matches of the trip to Australia to recover from a knee injury, but is expected to be at the helm for Saturday's clash with the Queensland Reds in Brisbane. Adding an element of pressure to his first game for the Lions will be Tipuric's impressive evening against the Barbarians and O'Brien's star turn in the 69-17 rout of the Western Force.

It points to a titanic struggle to claim the number seven jersey against the Wallabies and Quinnell, who played in all three Tests on the 2001 Lions tour to Australia, believes Warburton needs to make his mark, and he said: "Sam will be delighted with the two wins but will be thinking 'Come on, I need to get on that pitch and show what I can do'."

He added: "Sean and Justin have been outstanding so far on tour.

"He's (Sam) been picked as Lions captain so the one thing he'll want to do is stick the jersey on and lead the side, so he'll be desperate to play and make his mark.

"It just shows how the strong the squad is and we always knew that back row would be very competitive.

"The way Jamie Heaslip and Tom Croft played today showed it's going to be a battle royal at six, seven and eight. Between Heaslip and Toby Faletau at number eight you could decide by flipping a coin and seeing which way it lands because they've both been outstanding.

"It's still too early to tell who will be picked for the Test series and it will take four more games before they decide on their back row."

The Force, who lie third from bottom in the Super 15 table, fielded a weakened team for the first of the Lions' nine fixtures in Australia, prompting Sir Clive Woodward to declare the tourists were being treated with "contempt". But while their spirit was commendable, they were easy pickings for vastly superior opposition that ran in nine tries at Patersons Stadium.

Seven members of the squad had never played Super Rugby before and Quinnell was dismayed by their decision to select a second string in anticipation of Sunday's match against the Waratahs, and he added: "I'm bitterly disappointed that they didn't put their strongest squad out - especially because they won't win the Super 15 this year."


From Belfast Telegraph