Warburton fit and relishing first Lions start

BRITISH and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton says tomorrow cannot come quickly enough as he prepares to lead the team for the first time against Queensland Reds.

The 24-year-old sat out the first two tour matches with a knee injury but has been passed fit and starts in an all-Wales back row alongside Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau.

Warburton is one of six new starters in all selected by head coach Warren Gatland and is desperate to show what he can do after watching landslide victories over Barbarians and Western Force from the sideline.

“I am just dying to get on the pitch,” he said. “Since we got together as a squad it has been amazing. I have absolutely loved it, even though I haven’t played.

“I don’t feel left out at all. Now I have got a chance on Saturday. I have been thinking about this game for quite a while now and I am absolutely desperate to get on the pitch.

“All the back-rowers have done exceptionally well, which I am sure makes selection very tough. Those Test spots are what everyone is playing for at the end of the day.”

Scrum-half Ben Young, prop Matt Stevens, hooker Tom Youngs and lock Geoff Parling are all set to make their first starts on tour, while England team-mate Owen Farrell regains the No10 shirt from Jonny Sexton.

Gethin Jenkins replaces injured prop Cian Healy, while centre Manu Tuilagi and wing Tommy Bowe retain their places in the starting line-up.

“We always said we would give every players a start in the first three matches and this team reflects that,” said Gatland. “It also provides us with the opportunity to continue to look at different combinations. At the same time we have several players playing their second matches on tour and some proven combinations starting the match.

“Two wins and two victories is great, but those two matches are building blocks as we build towards the Test series.”

Stuart Hogg, Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies, Tommy Bowe and Richie Gray have also been named in tomorrow’s starting XV.