BRITISH and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton is set for a return to first team action against Western Force on Wednesday, in the second tour match of 10, after overcoming a knee injury.
The Wales flanker has been sidelined with a ligament strain and missed Saturday’s confidence-boosting 59-8 victory over the Barbarians in Hong Kong, where scorer of the opening try, Paul O’Connell, wore the armband.
However, Lions team doctor James Robson is happy Warburton is fit enough to assume his leadership on the field at Patersons Stadium in Perth this week.
“Given that he didn’t play against the Barbarians he should be available for the next game,” said Robson. “Sam got a knock in training last week that seemed fairly innocuous.
“But then he just felt his knee stiffen up a little on the flight and we pulled him out of training.
“We felt it would be beneficial to put a bit of steroid into the knee to help with the discomfort and Sam has had enormous benefit from that. It is only a mild tweak of a few fibres of his ligament and the muscle.
“He has had a five-day graduated return to playing; you inject, you rest and then you give a graduated return and he has been doing some rehabilitation training with us and medically should be fit to return.”
In the stifling heat of Hong Kong players shed an average of 2kg during the 80 minutes, though only lock O’Connell and hooker Tom Youngs were in need of medical attention, with the pair requiring stitches for minor injuries.
Fly-half Owen Farrell was unhurt, despite being struck by Saracens colleague Schalk Brits, in an incident that has earned the hooker a three-match suspension when the Aviva Premiership season restarts.
It means no fresh injury worries for Lions head coach Warren Gatland, who will name his team to face Western Force tomorrow and has both flanker Sean O’Brien and prop Gethin Jenkins back in contention following respective knee and calf injuries.