Sam Warburton: Warren Gatland expects Lions captain to play before tour

Sam Warburton
Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions for a second time

British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland expects injured captain Sam Warburton to play before the tour of New Zealand begins in June.

Warburton suffered a knee injury in Cardiff Blues' 24-24 draw at Ulster in April, ruling him out for six weeks.

Blues head coach Danny Wilson said the 28-year-old may return for a possible European Champions Cup play-off final - a week before the tour's first game.

"I spoke to Sam and he feels that he could play now," Gatland said.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Gatland continued: "He's made some really good progress and really happy with how he's responded to treatment over the last few weeks.

"I expect him to play before he goes to New Zealand. I think he's looking to play for the Blues and if potentially they are involved in one of the play-off games to get into Europe, he's hoping to be selected for that."

Meanwhile, Gatland also said scrum-half Conor Murray and lock Alun Wyn Jones were progressing in their own recoveries from injury.

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Sam Warburton: How the Lions captain injured his knee

Murray sustained up a shoulder injury in Ireland's Six Nations defeat by Wales in March while Jones also injured his shoulder in Wales' defeat by France on 18 March.

"[Jones] is making good progress. [Lions forward coach] Steve Borthwick went down and saw him last week and he's confident that he's going to be okay as well," Gatland said.

"It looks like the Ospreys are going to be involved in the semi-finals of the Pro12 and that would give him [Jones] an opportunity to get some rugby under his belt.

"Conor Murray, the prognosis with him looks pretty positive in terms of hopefully getting back and getting a game for Munster as well, and that'll be good for him over the next few weeks if he can get a game.

"The ideal scenario is that, and it's not for everyone, but depending on how long ago you've picked up an injury, you want some players to get back on the field and get a game under their belt before we go on tour."

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