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Warburton in war for Test selection

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/06/2017 By Daniel Gilhooly
Sam Warburton © Getty Images Sam Warburton

Back from injury and straight into a dogfight for selection - British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton wouldn't have it any other way.

The man who lifted the series trophy in Australia four years ago accepts there is a very real chance he won't make the starting team for the first Test against the All Blacks, such is the depth in the Lions tour party.

An untimely ankle injury ruled the skipper out of their last two games but he returns to face the Highlanders in Dunedin on Tuesday.

Lions coach Warren Gatland said from the outset that Warburton was guaranteed nothing in terms of Test selection.

Irish pair Sean O'Brien and Peter O'Mahony grabbed their chance with gusto in the try-less win over the Crusaders, with openside flanker O'Brien mounting a strong case to wear No.7 in the first Test in Auckland on June 24.

Also hunting Warburton's berth is Justin Tipuric, whose form over the last year in Welsh rugby has been exceptional.

"People have asked me over the years, who I think are the best sevens in world rugby," Warburton said.

"If I had to name five, I'd put Justin and Sean in that top five."

Gatland must choose from eight loose forwards to fill three Test berths, possibly his most contentious selection area.

Warburton says if three names were simply pulled out of a hat, it would be a strong mix regardless, putting the Lions in a position of "luxury".

Having played just 66 minutes on tour, Warburton hopes he can instantly perform.

"I've always said I need a couple of games to get up and running and I'll definitely be better on Tuesday."

Warburton expects the match under a roof will suit him as it be faster and more points-heavy than the arm wrestle in slippery Christchurch conditions.

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