Warburton to lead British & Irish Lions against Reds

The British and Irish Lions have named tour captain Sam Warburton in their team to play the Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.

Warburton will become the 800th player to wear the British and Irish Lions jersey in a competitive fixture when he finally makes his debut on the 2013 tour.

The Cardiff Blues and Wales flanker will become the last of the original squad who left London on 27 May to make his Lions debut and to add to the sense of occasion he will be leading the side for the first time as well.

Three times tourist Gethin Jenkins will join Warburton in making his first appearance on the 2013 tour, while lock Geoff Parling, prop Matt Stevens, hooker Tom Youngs and his brother and scrum-half Ben Youngs will all make their run-on debuts for the Lions.

“Two games and two victories is great, but those two matches are building blocks as we head towards the Test series. We always said we would give every player a start in the first three matches and this team reflects that. It also provides us with the opportunity to continue to look at different combinations,” said head coach Warren Gatland.

“For the Reds match this includes a new centre pairing and a different front five. At the same time we have several players playing their second matches on tour and some proven combinations starting the match – Ben Youngs and Owen Farrell are the incumbent England halfbacks and we have an all-Welsh backrow.”

Warburton has fully recovered from the knee ligament strain he suffered in training and will form an all Wales 2013 Grand Slam back row unit with Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau, who will be seeing action for the third game in a row.

Tour Manager Andy Irvine said: “We have played two matches so far and done very well but the stakes get higher on Saturday against the Reds, who are a leading Super Rugby side. It is the type of game we require at this point in the tour and it will be a measure of how we are progressing on the field.

“Tour captain Sam Warburton is the last of the 2013 tourists that has yet to pull on the famous red jersey. He is now fit and raring to play and it is great that he marks the occasion by becoming the 800th British and Irish Lion.”

The Reds, the 2011 Super Rugby champions, were the last Australian state team to beat the Lions way back in 1971 – their second triumph over the tourists to go with their first in 1899. Their matchday 23, announced earlier in the day includes 12 Qantas Wallabies who hold 127 caps between them.

British and Irish Lions

Stuart Hogg; Alex Cuthbert, Manu Tuilagi, Jonathan Davies, Tommy Bowe; Owen Farrell, Ben Youngs; Toby Faletau, Sam Warburton (capt), Dan Lydiate; Geoff Parling, Richie Gray; Matt Stevens, Tom Youngs, Gethin Jenkins

Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Mako Vunipola, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O’Connell, Justin Tipuric, Conor Murray, Jonathan Sexton, George North

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