Warburton captains Lions in tour opener

Sam Warburton skippers the British & Irish Lions in their opening match of the 2017 tour against the NZ Barbarians in a team that features Johnny Sexton at fly-half and Alun Wyn Jones in the second-row.

Warren Gatland names all three touring Scots in the Saturday’s match in Whangarei with Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour featuring in the back three while Greig Laidlaw gets the nod at scrum-half.

Warburton, who was an injury doubt heading into the tour, is fit to captain the side in his first action since April. He heads up an all-Welsh back-row with Ross Moriarty packing down at blindside and Taulupe Faletau anchoring the team at No.8.

Ireland’s Johnny Sexton starts at fly-half, with no place for Dan Biggar in the matchday 23, with his Ireland colleague Iain Henderson in the second-row and Rory Best at hooker.

Elsewhere Gatland has opted for England’s Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph in the centres with Anthony Watson on the wing.

“We are lucky to have some real leaders in the squad and to be able to select them for this match in the likes of Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and Greig Laidlaw,” Gatland said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what Greig can do alongside Johnny Sexton who both are experienced half-backs. It is also great to have Sam starting in the first game of the tour, something he didn’t do in 2013 and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend.

“The balance of the squad is really good, we have selected the majority of players who were together for the training weeks in Wales and Ireland and they have worked together and prepared well for a number of weeks. It is important these guys get a run early and lay down a marker for others to follow.

“We’ve picked the team for Saturday but it is still the plan to try and give the whole squad a start in the next two matches. It is important the players get that opportunity, because if they go well and the team goes well, they put themselves in the shop window for a Test start.”

British & Irish Lions:

Stuart Hogg, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Ben Te’o, Tommy Seymour, Jonathan Sexton, Greig Laidlaw; Joe Marler, Rory Best, Kyle Sinckler, Alun Wyn Jones, Iain Henderson, Ross Moriarty, Sam Warburton, Taulupe Faletau


Jamie George, Mako Vunipola, Tadhg Furlong, George Kruis, Justin Tipuric, Rhys Webb, Owen Farrell, Jared Payne