Gatland wants Warburton to sit out Blues' European play-offs


British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland wants captain Sam Warburton to miss Cardiff Blues' European play-off campaign to ensure he is fully fit for the start of the tour to New Zealand.

The Lions begin their 10-match tour against the New Zealand Barbarians on June 3, before the Test series kicks off against the All Blacks in Auckland on June 24.

The Blues' seventh-place finish in this season's Pro12 saw them enter the play-off process for a Champions Cup berth, beginning with a semi-final against Stade Francais on Friday.

Northampton Saints or Connacht await the winner of that match but Gatland would prefer Warburton - who is recovering from a knee injury - to be omitted from coach Danny Wilson's plans.

"It would be ideal for us if he didn't play for the Blues," Gatland is quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

"Sam thinks he is okay at the moment. The plan is that he will stay with us and do some hard conditioning work with contact as well."

Gatland wants all of his players fit and firing for the opening game.

"We struggled in 2009 in that first game [against Royal XV]," added Gatland. "It wasn't pretty.

"The opposition teams will relish a Lions scalp and my challenge is to communicate that to the squad.

"In the past it was provincial teams, not Super Rugby sides, and they will see it as a chance to make a name for themselves, do something special, create a bit of history."