Warburton desperate to play in Lions opener


British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has outlined his eagerness to taste immediate match action on the tour of New Zealand, after being made to wait on the 2013 tour.

Warburton did not feature until the third match when the Lions visited Australia four years ago, after sustaining a knee injury in training.

Although the Wales flanker again suffered from a knee problem in the lead-up to this year's tour, he declared himself fully fit last week and is determined to lead Warren Gatland's side in Saturday's opening match against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

While some players were forced to link up with the Lions late due to club commitments, Warburton spent plenty of time in camp ahead of the squad's departure.

Following the Lions' arrival in Auckland on Wednesday, Warburton said: "We've got a meeting tonight, which I presume is going to be squad selection, so I presume a lot of the guys who have been involved for the past two and a half weeks will make up the majority of the team, but we find out tonight for sure."

Asked if he had requested to play in game one, he added: "That's what I'm hoping is going to happen this time around.

"I think I've obviously got a good chance as I've been in the camp for the last two and a half weeks, but that's what frustrated me four years ago. I think I played the third game on tour, I was the last guy in that squad to play a game and I was pretty jealous.

"I'd see the boys' red jerseys coming back in the laundry nice and clean and they'd actually got the Lions jersey. You just want to get that Lions jersey in your kit bag and actually say you'd played for the Lions on this tour, so obviously I'm desperate to be involved in that first game."

Saturday's fixture against the Provincial Barbarians is the first of 10 matches on a gruelling tour for the Lions, with the first Test against the All Blacks taking place on June 24.

"It's great that we're actually here and the tour's underway. And the good thing is when the first game gets under way on Saturday, they start coming through thick and fast then," said Warburton.

"It's just nice to get that first game under your belt and then you can crack on. What's nice is you don't actually have a lot of time to think about the games coming up, like you would in a normal international week. You actually enjoy these games a bit more because they come so quick."