Skip to main content

Lions skipper Warburton out of Barbarians warm-up

By Dean Irvine, CNN
May 30, 2013 -- Updated 1039 GMT (1839 HKT)
  • British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton sidelined with knee injury
  • Irish lock Paul O'Connell takes on skipper duties against Barbarians
  • Saturday's match in Hong Kong is the warm-up to a six-week tour to Australia
  • The Lions last won a series in 1997 in South Africa

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Sam Warburton will have to wait to join the roar of rugby union's British and Irish Lions after injury ruled out the Welsh captain for the opening match of their 2013 tour.

The 24-year-old star was picked as captain on his debut tour but a knee ligament injury has put the flanker on the sidelines for Saturday's warm-up against the Barbarians in Hong Kong.

The captain's armband goes to Irish forward Paul O'Connell, who led the Lions on their tour of South Africa in 2009.

Form and fitness meant O'Connell, on his third Lions tour, didn't think he would even make the squad a few months ago.

"Around Christmas and even a few months after, I certainly didn't think I'd be here and now captaining the side is fantastic," said the 33-year-old.

"Sam has run a great ship for the past few weeks and I am sure he is disappointed not to be leading the guys out in the first game. But for me personally I am thrilled.

Read: Welsh star Warburton to lead out Lions

Warburton was an integral part of the Welsh team who won the 2013 Six Nations -- the northern hemisphere's annual tournament -- but he now faces his own battle back to form.

From Afghanistan to the rugby pitch
Dan Carter's top 5 rugby fly-halfs
England prepares to host Rugby World Cup

"He's had a sore knee for the last ten days," Lions head coach Warren Gatland explained in a media conference.

"He's had an injection and been told to stay off it. It's so early on in the tour that it's just not worth the risk."

Sean O'Brien, Rob Kearney and Gethin Jenkins have also been added to the injured list ahead of the weekend.

In a hot and humid Hong Kong, O'Connell is set to lead out the team against the Barbarians -- a scratch team of international players -- with 17 of the 23 players in the Lions' match-day squad pulling on the team jersey for the first time.

It is the first match of the 10-game tour which will see the Lions fly to Australia on Sunday for three Test matches against the Wallabies with the first game in Brisbane on June 22.

The full 37-man squad -- comprised of 15 Welsh, 10 Irish, nine English and three Scottish players --only came together last week and have been training in testing conditions for the past two days.

Pitch-side cooling fans were employed during practice sessions to try and negate the temperature that was in excess of 31C (88F) with over 80% humidity. "They're not ideal conditions," commented O'Connell.

With little preparation time, Gatland remains hopeful that his Lions side will be "incredibly positive" in their play.

"It's important when you go to Australia that you're positive," said the New Zealander. "We want to show the Australian public we're capable of moving the ball and scoring lots of tries.

"Ultimately though I don't care about the style as long as we win."

The Lions head Down Under again in 2013 determined to avenge their defeat by the Australians in 2001.

Adam Jones -- one of nine Welshman picked for the opening match -- revealed the squad are revisiting the Lions' victory in South Africa 16 years ago as inspiration.

"The majority of our boys will have watched the 1997 documentary (of the tour) and that sticks in your mind," said prop Jones. "What an experience that was."

The Lions comes together every four years and are seen as something of a super team featuring the best of Britain and Ireland's rugby talent.

The concept of a combined touring Lions side began in 1891 when a group of English and Scottish players took part in a three-Test series against South Africa under the auspices of the Rugby Football Union.

In 1899, the tourists fielded players from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland for the first time as they traveled to Australia to provide them with their first international competition

A relatively inexperienced Lions squad will now retread their steps hoping to scent victory.

Part of complete coverage on
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 1138 GMT (1938 HKT)
Click through our gallery of the most dramatic moments from the world of sport.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1606 GMT (0006 HKT)
Whisper it quietly, but after years of foreign domination the prospect of a French winner of the Tour de France is more than just a mere pipe dream.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Seven years ago Steve Way was a 20 per day smoker and weighed a hefty 104 kg, but he led the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 1317 GMT (2117 HKT)
After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Inspirational cyclist Joanna Rowsell added another gold to her growing collection in the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0404 GMT (1204 HKT)
At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, an actor upstaged the Queen by kissing a male dancer.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
Of course not. But former Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed seems to think the removal of Michael Jackson's statue was a very "bad" idea.
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1636 GMT (0036 HKT)
Second-tier French side Clermont Foot appoint Helena Costa -- the country's first ever professional female coach of a male team.
April 25, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.
April 4, 2014 -- Updated 1308 GMT (2108 HKT)
The 2002 bomb attacks in Bali had many victims -- including a touring rugby team from Hong Kong.
Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
February 25, 2014 -- Updated 1254 GMT (2054 HKT)
With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
January 20, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.