Paul O’Connell has been announced as the captain for the British and Irish Lions in their opening game against the Barbarians on Saturday 1st June in Hong Kong. The original Lions captain, Sam Warburton, had to drop out due to a knee injury, leaving Paul O’Connell as the best choice to lead the team at the Hong Kong Stadium. There was debate about whether they were going to risk allowing Warburton to play but the medical team decided against it. The Welshman is now being treated with steroid injections for the knee ligament injury.
Lions’ Head Coach, Warren Gatland commented, “The medics have asked him to stay off it for five days. We felt it was not worth the risk. The last thing we wanted was for him to get through the first three or four weeks and then be struggling when the Tests come around. It is just precautionary.” Along with Warburton, three other team players are out of the question with injuries. Fellow Leinster players Sean O’Brien (knee bruising) and Rob Kearney (hamstring) are both out whilst Wales’ prop Gethin Jenkins is unavailable due to a calf problem.
Gatland also stated that choosing O’Connell to take Warburton’s place as captain was a very easy decision to make. “Paul O’Connell has been great over the last few weeks, and it was probably a blessing that Munster got knocked out of the Heineken Cup. He has done a great job supporting Sam and is the best person for the job in terms of his leadership and the respect he has within the squad.”
Jamie Roberts, scrum-half Mike Phillips, prop Adam Jones and Paul O’Connell are the only players in the starting line-up who have had the pleasure of playing for the Lions previously. Matt Stevens, Alun Wyn Jones and Jamie Heaslip have all played for the Lions but are on the bench for the opening match against the Barbarians.
Stuart Hogg (Scotland), Alex Cuthbert (Wales), Jonathan Davies (Wales), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Sean Maitland (Scotland); Owen Farrell (England), Mike Phillips (Wales); Mako Vunipola (England), Richard Hibbard (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Paul O’Connell (Ireland), Dan Lydiate (Wales), Justin Tipuric (Wales), Toby Faletau (Wales).
Replacements: Tom Youngs (England), Cian Healy (Ireland), Matt Stevens (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland), Conor Murray (Ireland), Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), George North (Wales).
Author Daniel Foster.
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