Sam Warburton casts fitness doubts for first Lions Test against New Zealand
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 12/06/17 11:46am
Sam Warburton has conceded he may miss the British and Irish Lions' first Test against New Zealand, despite recovering from an ankle injury.
Fit-again Warburton will skipper the Lions in Tuesday's Highlanders clash, but feels he needs to feature in two or three more matches to reach top form.
The Lions have three matches before the first All Blacks Test on June 24, so Warburton admitted he has his work cut out to be ready for that Eden Park showdown, live on Sky Sports.
"I definitely need more games," said Warburton, who had beaten a knee injury to make the Lions tour in the first place. "I definitely admit that and I knew that coming into the tour.
"I've learned from experience that it takes me at least two games and then the third game I'll probably be playing some good rugby but Gats (coach Warren Gatland) knew that.
"I've received this role as tour captain and I know there's every chance that I might not even get involved in that first Test because there's every other player.
"I see it as I'm tour captain, and if I've made the Test then that would be a bonus for me, but I've said there's three Tests to get selected for so it's not the be-all and end-all with the first one."
Warburton suffered his ankle problem in the patchy 13-7 tour-opening win over the Provincial Barbarians.
The Wales flanker has insisted he would sacrifice his own selection chances for the greater good if he felt he was under prepared.
"I'll be honest with Gats and Gats will be honest with me: if I play Tuesday and I still feel I'm a bit undercut, then I might not be ready for that first Test," said Warburton.
"Maybe that would be the situation, or maybe I could have a blinder on Tuesday and feel absolutely fine so we'll see how it goes really.
"I'll be perfectly honest with Warren and if I feel I need more games then I'll tell him if I don't feel ready.
"And if I don't need anything more then I'll obviously let him know that with a good performance.
"When I play well and I am match-fit, I am aggressive in the tackle, I'll contribute handful of good carries, and become a lineout option.
"And more importantly, which hasn't really been a factor in the last three games, is turnovers.
"We haven't seen a whole lot of turnovers. You've got to be able to do everything, but you've got to bring a specialist element and I guess my one specialist element is the contact area.
"I guess I have to deliver in that area on Tuesday. That's my role of expertise."
In his desperation to fend off his latest injury issue, Warburton was able to ice his ankle through the night courtesy of a specialist rehabilitation machine.
"I picked up the injury about 15 minutes into the first game," said Warburton."I was thinking, 'oh no, this can't be happening'.
"Over the next five minutes it was sore but I've had a few bumps now and I tend to know when it's serious and I have to come off.
"We've got machines where we plug them in and there's a programme that you set and it's filled with ice, and you put it in an insulated bag so the ice doesn't melt overnight.
"It probably lasts about six to seven hours and you can set it to come on automatically every one-and-a-half to two hours.
"You stay in bed, but every hour-and-a-half you wake up from the humming noise of this ice machine and obviously the freezing cold ankle.
"It's just like having a baby where I'm perfectly used to waking me up every hour and a half!
"It's not too bad, I did a couple of nights then I was back up and running."