Barbarians v British & Irish Lions, Hong Kong, June 1
Warburton ruled out of Lions tour opener
ESPN Staff
May 30, 2013
British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton faces the press, Carlton House, Dublin, Ireland, May 20, 2013
Sam Warburton will be hoping to be fit for the Lions' second outing against the Western Force in Perth on Wednesday © Getty Images

British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has been ruled out of his side's tour opener against the Barbarians in Hong Kong on Saturday with Paul O'Connell set to lead the side in his absence.

Warburton picked up a knee injury in training before the squad left London earlier this week and will not be risked in a move described by coach Warren Gatland as "precautionary". Ireland lock O'Connell, who led the Lions to South Africa in 2009, skippers a side including nine Welshmen with 17 of the matchday squad on their first Lions tour.

"I'm really excited by the first selection of the tour," Gatland said. "Naturally it comprises largely those players not involved in last weekend's Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect PRO12 finals and we've a lot of players making their debuts for the Lions.

"At the same time we have a hard core of experience with the six former Lions sharing 430 caps between them and 19 Lions Tests. There are also some proven combinations such as the Welsh centre pairing and back row. Some of the boys who played last weekend are on the bench as cover and generally everyone in the camp is raring to go."

Gatland played down Warburton's injury and hinted he may make his tour bow against the Western Force in Perth on Wednesday. "He (Warburton) has had a little bit of a sore knee for the last 10 days," Gatland added. "The medics have given him an injection and said for him to just stay off it for about five days. He was desperate to play, but we just felt so early in the tour it is not worth the risk. It is just precautionary."

O'Connell, who has overcome his own injury woe this season, has set his sights on a winning start to the tour. "I remember the first game we had in South Africa in 2009," he said. "It was a very tough game. We didn't play fabulously well, but we finished well and got the win. It got us moving in the right direction, and if we can do that this weekend, it will be great. The players have completely dived into the whole thing. We are very tight already, and there is a big buzz and excitement about making this tour very special."

British & Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland); Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Mike Phillips (Bayonne/Wales), Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Paul O'Connell (Munster/Ireland, captain), Dan Lydiate (Dragons/Wales), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/Wales), Toby Faletau (Dragons/Wales)

Replacements: Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England), Cian Healy (Leinster/Ireland), Matt Stevens (Saracens/England), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/wales), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland), Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland), Johnny Sexton (Leinster/Ireland) George North (Scarlets/Wales)

Paul O'Connell and Warren Gatland face the media in Hong Kong © Getty Images
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