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Rowntree: Warburton could play in Lions opener

Mon, May 15, 2017, Posted by   print

2007 World Cup

Graham Rowntree says he does not envisage any problem with British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton being available for the opening New Zealand tour game on June 3.

Wales star Warburton has been sidelined for more than a month due to a knee injury, but he met up with 13 of his playing colleagues for a first day of Lions training Monday.

It is also a possibility that he could feature for Cardiff Blues in their European Champions Cup qualification playoff against Stade Francais in Paris on Friday.

“Sam is on a modified (training) load,” Lions assistant coach Rowntree said. “He didn’t train with the rest of the team today. He is on a modified load, as you would expect for a guy coming back from injury, but he is going to be fine.”

Asked about the Blues game in four days’ time, Rowntree added: “That is a bigger picture decision for Sam and the Blues and Warren [Lions head coach Warren Gatland].

“He looked pretty fit to me this morning. I don’t think there will be any trouble with him playing, certainly, the first game on tour, but as I keep saying, we are managing him coming back from injury.”

Almost two-thirds of the 41-man Lions squad are currently with their clubs, regions and provinces ahead of Aviva Premiership, Guinness PRO12 and Champions Cup playoffs next weekend.

“We’ve got 14 guys here,” Rowntree said. “Other guys are away in other competitions, which is great, because we want them on the plane going to New Zealand battle-hardened, playing in finals, preferably.

“We have been getting the guys used to an intensity of how we train. Against the All Blacks, the ball is on the field for a long time, so we trained them hard with that in mind.”

Iain Henderson believes the key to beating the All Blacks will be an aggressive game plan. Stu Forster/Getty Images

Ireland forward Iain Henderson was one of the 14 players present for training in Wales. And, despite missing Ireland’s stunning victory over New Zealand in Chicago six months ago, Henderson knows the Lions will take plenty from it ahead of their tour.

“The boys over in Chicago got under the All Blacks’ skin,” Henderson said. “They made them cough up a loss. It was definitely a performance put in where the boys got in their faces, under their skin and disrupted them from their usual game.

“It will be what we are looking to do out there, not beat them at their game, but at our game.”

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19389962/graham-rowntree-expects-sam-warburton-play-british-irish-lions-opening-tour-game
Rowntree: Warburton could play in Lions opener
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