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British and Irish Lions 2017: Sam Warburton returns from ankle injury to lead Lions against Highlanders

The Independent logo The Independent 11/06/2017 Jack de Menezes

Sam Warburton sat out the 12-3 victory over the Crusaders in Canterbury on Saturday night, having featured in the tour-opening win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians last weekend in what was his first game in two months due to a knee injury. © PA Images Sam Warburton sat out the 12-3 victory over the Crusaders in Canterbury on Saturday night, having featured in the tour-opening win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians last weekend in what was his first game in two months due to a knee injury. Sam Warburton will return from an ankle injury to captain the British and Irish Lions in their fourth tour match against the Otago Highlanders, with the squad looking to maintain the momentum created from the victory over the Crusaders on Saturday.

Warburton comes back into the side to lead out the Lions at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Tuesday, giving him a chance of being included for the first Test against the All Blacks in under two weeks’ time.

The 28-year-old sat out the 12-3 victory over the Crusaders in Canterbury on Saturday night, having featured in the tour-opening win over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians last weekend in what was his first game in two months due to a knee injury.

© Provided by Independent Print Limited Warburton is not the only player included who returns from injury, as Ireland’s Jared Payne starts at full-back, having been forced off in the defeat by the Blues last Wednesday with a calf strain. Having been given a run out at outside centre in Auckland, Payne is now given the chance to show what he can do in the 15 shirt, with the place still up for grabs after Stuart Hogg was forced off in the game with the Crusaders after just 20 minutes with a head injury.

As expected, Gatland makes 15 changes to his starting line-up, with a number of players who featured against the Blues given the chance to make up for the loss, with eight of those selected again by the head coach.

“At this stage of the Tour everyone has had a start and as coaches we are happy that all the players have had a chance to put their hand up and perform in the Lions jersey,” Gatland said.

“Each game is a chance for individuals to shine but more importantly it’s about a collective performance. We are building some momentum and we have improved with every game.

“We were obviously pleased with the win against the Crusaders, especially our defence and game management, but we know the Highlanders will be another massive test for us as a squad.”

Among the replacements, Ken Owens, Jack McGrath and Dan Cole are retained after coming on in the second half of the win in Christchurch, while Owen Farrell is also included with Jonathan Sexton fully rested for the first time since arriving in New Zealand.

Lions team to face Highlanders:

Jared Payne; Jack Nowell, Jonathan Joseph, Robbie Henshaw, Tommy Seymour; Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb; Joe Marler, Rory Best, Kyle Sinckler; Courtney Lawes, Iain Henderson; James Haskell, Sam Waburton, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Jack McGrath, Dan Cole, Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, Greig Laidlaw, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly.

© Provided by Independent Print Limited

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