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'We've spoken about the potential of that happening': Lions have captaincy contingency plans

Sam Warburton continues to struggle with an ankle injury, although Graham Rowntree has played down the severity of the problem.

Warburton started the first tour game of the tour against the Provincial Barbarians.
Warburton started the first tour game of the tour against the Provincial Barbarians.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

GRAHAM ROWNTREE HAS moved to ease fears over the fitness of Lions captain Sam Warburton, but admits discussions over a potential stand-in skipper have taken place.

Warburton will miss Saturday’s game against the Crusaders in Christchurch with an ankle injury and although he has been unable to fully train, Rowntree is confident the Welshman will play again before the first Test against the All Blacks on 24 June.

“You saw him in game one,” the Lions scrum coach said. “He hurt his ankle a bit in that game, he’s not able to train fully yet but I watched him train next to us doing some rehab running and he’s working hard, he’s just not able at the moment to do some of the twisting and running and off-line running that’s required in a high-intensity session.

“But to the people back home, don’t worry about Sam, he’s just having a few days out of the twisting and turning but he’s working hard.”

When asked if Warburton could walk into the Test starting XV without playing another minute on the tour, Rowntree said: “We’ll deal with that as and when it comes. At this point, he’s missed a couple of days training and it’s not a long-term issue.

“That’s rugby, he won’t be the only person who doesn’t train fully in the next five days. At this point we don’t want him training fully as we don’t want him twisting and turning but he’s running hard.”

While Rowntree was quick to play down the severity of Warburton’s injury and hinted he could be back in time for Tuesday’s game against the Highlanders, the former English prop said contingency plans are in place should he fail to recover in time for Auckland.

There are no shortage of options available to Warren Gatland with Alun Wyn Jones, Rory Best and Greig Laidlaw all international captains while Ken Owens skippered the side against the Blues on Wednesday.

“There are a few candidates that we’ve spoken about initially when we spoke about captaincy so there are some other guys we can call upon.

“We’ve spoken about that and the potential of that happening but luckily we’ve picked some good leaders in this tour squad.”

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