O'Connell to captain Lions

2013-05-30 08:37
Paul O'Connell (AFP)

Hong Kong - Ireland lock Paul O'Connell was named as captain for the British and Irish Lions' tour opener against the Barbarians on Thursday after Sam Warburton was ruled out with knee ligament damage.

O'Connell, who led the combined English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish team to their 2-1 Test series defeat against South Africa four years ago, heads a matchday squad featuring 17 new Lions to play at Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday.

He replaces Warburton, 24, the nominated team captain who has been forced to sit out the Lions' first ever game in Asia after damaging his medial collateral ligament in training last week.

While head coach Warren Gatland played down the significance of the injury, he said Warburton had been given an injection and told to rest the knee for five days.

"He's had a bit of a sore knee for the last 10 days," said Gatland. "We spoke to the medics yesterday and they've given him an injection and told him to stay off it for about five days.

"It is a slight MCL but the medics are happy that it's just a bit sore and just needed a steroid in there to hopefully improve it in the next four or five days." He added: "It is just precautionary."

Gatland said O'Connell, who also toured New Zealand with Lions in 2005, had been the obvious choice to lead the side out. "It was a pretty easy decision," the coach said.

"He has been great around the squad for the last few weeks. He brings experience into the team. He has done a great job supporting Sam and given us some general leadership."

O'Connell said he was honoured to once again pull on the famous red jersey and lead out the Lions. But he added: "I am disappointed for Sam.

"He has run a great ship for the last two weeks so I am sure he is disappointed not to lead the boys out for the first game."

Scotland's Stuart Hogg, the squad's youngest player at 20, gets his first chance in a Lions shirt after being named at full-back, while Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips will operate alongside England flyhalf Owen Farrell.

Welsh internationals Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies are paired in the centres while Wales' Alex Cuthbert and Scotland's Sean Maitland, who was born in New Zealand, are on the wings.

Wales team-mates Adam Jones and Richard Hibbard will join with England prop Mako Vunipola, who was also born in New Zealand, in the front row with O'Connell and Scotland's Richie Gray completing the tight five.

Toby Faletau, Justin Tipuric and Dan Lydiate will form an all-Wales back row in a starting team featuring nine players from the reigning Six Nations champions.

After playing the Barbarians, the Lions will begin a month-long tour of Australia where they are targeting their first Test series victory in 16 years.

One factor heading into Saturday's match is Hong Kong's tropical heat and humidity, which can be brutal in the summer months and is expected to keep the tourists' bench active.

"With the heat and the weather, most of the guys will come off the bench," Gatland told the press conference.

Temperatures are expected to hit 33 degrees Celsius, with relative humidity to stay in the 65 percent to the 90 percent range through Saturday, according to the Hong Kong observatory.



15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors/SCO), 14 Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/WAL), 13 Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/WAL), 12 Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/WAL), 11 Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/SCO), 10 Owen Farrell (Saracens/ENG), 9 Mike Phillips (Bayonne/WAL), 8 Toby Faletau (Dragons/WAL), 7 Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/WAL), 6 Dan Lydiate (Dragons/WAL), 5 Paul O'Connell (captain - Munster/IRL), 4 Richie Gray (SCO), 3 Adam Jones (Ospreys/WAL), 2 Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/WAL), 1 Mako Vunipola (Saracens/ENG)

Substitutes: 16 Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/ENG), 17 Cian Healy (Leinster/IRL), 18 Matt Stevens (Saracens/ENG), 19 Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/WAL), 20 Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/IRL), 21 Conor Murray (Munster/IRL), 22 Johnny Sexton (Leinster/IRL), 23 George North (Scarlets/WAL)


15 Jared Payne (Ulster/NZL), 14 Joe Rokocoko (Bayonne/NZL), 13 Elliot Daly (London Wasps/ENG), 12 Casey Laulala (Munster/NZL), 11 Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique/USA), 10 Nick Evans (Harlequins/NZL), 9 Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz Olympique/FRA), 8 Sergio Parisse (captain, Stade Francais/ITA), 7 Sam Jones (London Wasps/ENG), 6 Samu Manoa (Northampton/USA), 5 Dean Mumm (Exeter Chiefs/AUS), 4 Marco Wentzel (London Wasps/RSA), 3 Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester/ITA), 2 Schalk Brits (Saracens/RSA), 1 Paul James (Bath/WAL)

Substitutes: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso/ITA), 17 Duncan Jones (Ospreys/WAL), 18 Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing Metro 92/ITA), 19 Jim Hamilton (Gloucester/SCO), 20 Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz Olympique/FRA), 21 Kahn Fotuali'i (Ospreys/SAM), 22 James Hook (Perpignan/WAL), 23 Mike Tindall (Gloucester/ENG)


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