Wednesday 25 April 2018

Analysis: Will Sam Warburton replace Sean O'Brien in the Lions test team after today's performance?

Sean O'Brien (left) and Sam Warburton (right).
Sean O'Brien (left) and Sam Warburton (right).
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Sam Warburton entered the British and Irish Lions' midweek fixture against the Highlanders needing to prove his fitness in his second appearance of the tour.

Warburton missed the final six weeks of the domestic season with a knee injury and has been limited to 66 minutes in New Zealand against the Provincial Barbarians because of an ankle problem.

The Highlanders were the first of three matches before the opening Test against the All Blacks at Eden Park and here we examine the tour captain's performance.

BREAKDOWN

Involved in the first half, but made up the numbers rather than as the customary poacher and reducer of opposition ball. That changed after the interval, however, when he was the architect of one crucial steal and almost grabbed a second.

CARRYING

The Wales flanker's finest moment was his 53rd-minute try that saw him scoop up the ball at the breakdown from 10 metres out and ride a tackle to touch down by the posts. Showed awareness and strength to cross.

FITNESS

By his own admission Warburton needs two matches to begin firing again after an injury lay-off and while he was initially off the pace in Dunedin, he became more involved as the game progressed until his replacement by Justin Tipuric in the 68th minute.

VERDICT

A peripheral figure in the first half, Warburton was far more involved after the break when he produced two strong runs, a try, one big tackle and a key turnover. Sean O'Brien of Ireland has been the more impressive openside to date, but this showing gives the tour captain hope of starting the first Test against the All Blacks on Saturday week.

Press Association

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