Warburton back to take on Highlanders

Henrietta Strickland
June 19, 2017

"I know when I do, I'll be absolutely fine so I'm delighted to be getting this start", Warburton said.

"I definitely need more games", said Warburton, who had beaten a knee injury to make the Lions tour in the first place.

In replacement fullback Anthony Watson, the Lions have unearthed a diamond in the rough, and with Scotland's Stuart Hogg out of the tour and Leigh Halfpenny steady without being scintillating, Watson could come into series contention.

"That doesn't really get me going, wanting to try and emulate players from the past however great they've been, it's me trying to take little bits and pieces from what they've done and put my own stamp on the jersey. The coaches are going to start putting their Test team together pretty soon".

Highlanders captain Luke Whitelock said the Crusaders game against the Lions went up to another intensity level from what they had played before and their defence was outstanding in nullifying a lot of the Crusaders' attack.

Warren Gatland has accused Super Rugby teams of illegal scrummaging following the Lions' victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday night. You tend to say in Super Rugby guys like to get the ball in and out and play but then you have the Crusaders who scrum for penalties.

While Munster half-back Murray admitted the Lions were delighted to set their tour on track after the 22-16 loss to the Blues, he insisted Warren Gatland's men will not run away with themselves.

"I'll be honest with Gats and he will be honest with me".

He is a very composed player, knows the game and never gets rattled.

"It's a good night and a good performance and something we can build on".

"That's the style of play they'll want to take into the Test matches, no doubt".

Dan Biggar is fit to return and start at fly-half having completed all the relevant concussions testing, and Murray suffered a suspected dislocated finger against the Crusaders but Lions bosses are unconcerned by the minor issue.

"But more importantly, which hasn't been a factor in the last three games, is turnovers. I'm desperate to get another win and kick on again so the confidence can grow".

"He could potentially back that up against the Maori All Blacks (on Saturday)". The Lions have to find players capable of punishing the All Blacks if their aggressive defence can pressurise New Zealand into kicking errors.

If he comes through in Dunedin, Warburton will be in the first of those two categories. The business end of the tour is fast approaching.

So, assuming the scenario that sees all three Welshman warming the bench or a seat in the stands, to whom can Gatland turn to lead the Lions out against the All Blacks? You've got to be able to do everything, but you've got to bring a specialist element and I guess my one specialist element is the contact area.

Highlanders will be missing All Blacks Ben Smith and Aaron Smith for the clash, but New Zealand global trio Malakai Fekitoa, Waisake Naholo and Lima Sopoaga will get a look at the Lions.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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