Shane Williams: Injured Lions players 'need minutes on the field'

Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones
Sam Warburton and Alun Wyn Jones both captained the Lions during the 2013 tour to Australia

Ex-British and Irish Lions wing Shane Williams says it is "hugely important" injured players have "minutes on the field" before the New Zealand tour.

Captain Sam Warburton and fellow Wales forward Alun Wyn Jones have been sidelined by injuries.

"You've really got to be playing your best rugby on these tours because in a blink of an eye the Test series is there," he said.

"The rugby's going to be physical enough in New Zealand.

The Lions start their 10-match tour on Saturday, 3 June.

"You've definitely got to start getting used to the bumps again and making sure that your injuries are fine and that you hit the floor running on the Lions tour," Williams added.

"You haven't got time to play a game and see how it feels and wait for the next game."

Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton sustained a knee injury in April, ruling him out for six weeks, while Ospreys lock Jones has been out for six weeks after injuring his shoulder playing for Wales in their 20-18 Six Nations defeat by France in Paris in March.

Jones, 31, could be set to return from injury for Ospreys' crucial Pro12 game against regional rivals Scarlets on Saturday.

Taulupe Faletau
Bath's Taulupe Faletau made his Wales debut against the Barbarians in June 2011

Warburton could play for Cardiff Blues before the end of the season, the region's head coach Danny Wilson said.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland said Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray was also progressing in his recovery from a shoulder injury.

The Lions play the first of their tour matches against a Provincial Union XV in Whangarei.

Williams, who toured with the Lions on three occasions, dismissed former New Zealand number eight Zinzan Brooke's criticism of Taulupe Faletau as mind games.

Brooke had said Wales and Bath number eight Faletau lacked the "mongrel edge" to flourish on the summer's Lions tour.

"I suppose you're only going to start talking about or criticising players you worry could do the business against your team," Williams said.

"He's a world-class player and Zinzan Brooke knows that.

"Taulupe's a little bit different from your usual back-rower, he's got great feet, and his ball awareness as a player...he's superb and that's why he's on this tour.

"I know Taulupe very well, and I don't think he'd even watch or listen to anything that's being said out there."

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