Gatland: Halfpenny will be with Lions from the start of tour

Leigh Halfpenny
Leigh Halfpenny is the third highest record points scorer for Wales

British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland has insisted Leigh Halfpenny will be with the group when they fly out to New Zealand.

Halfpenny's Toulon club coach Richard Cockerill was reportedly trying to negotiate the release of the fullback for the Top 14 final on June 4 if the French side reached the showpiece.

But Gatland ruled out the prospect and says the schedule is clear.

"He will be with us for the start of the tour," he confirmed.

"I spoke to Leigh today and he has got a week off this week before the quarter-final (on 19 May) then the semi-final," Gatland continued.

"If Toulon make the semi-final he will be involved with that and then he will come to us as with all the other players."

Gatland also gave an upbeat assessment on the fitness of tour skipper Sam Warburton who could feature for the Cardiff Blues in their European Champions Cup play-offs before the Lions fly out with the flanker currently recovering from a knee injury.

"Whether he plays for Cardiff Blues over the next couple of weeks that's going to be a decision between him, the clubs and the medics," said Gatland.

"Having spoken to Sam last week, he said he could play now at a push.

"There's no point in risking him or pushing him ahead of giving him another couple of weeks potentially with some conditioning work and building him into the start of the tour."

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