Warburton to prove himself against Waratahs

British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has said that he hopes to nail down his place in the Tests by putting in a big game against the Waratahs after coach Warren Gatland said that he has not settled on his Test back row.

A knee injury sidelined the Welsh openside flanker from the opening two tour wins in Hong Kong and Perth, and he failed to impress in last weekend’s victory over the Queensland Reds.

Despite stiff competition for backrow spots, and calls for Gatland to reward form players, Warburton got the nod for Saturday’s game in a team expected to closely resemble the line-up for next week’s first Test in Brisbane.

However, the 24-year-old knows he must deliver against the Waratahs with in-form Wales team-mate Justin Tipuric among those snapping at his heels and Gatland still unsure of his best loose-forward combination.

“There’s still a lot to prove,” Warburton told reporters.

“There’s still a couple of games to go (before the Test team is picked) and players will definitely try and take this opportunity on Saturday.”

Gatland said tour selectors would not decide on the Test side until after Tuesday’s match against the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, with the back row one area that remained uncertain.

“I can tell you we are far from made up our mind on the loose forwards and there’s a huge amount of options and combinations,” he said.

“They’re all fit at the moment and all of them have done really well, so that’s going to be one headache and the next couple of games will determine that.”

After teaming with compatriots Dan Lydiate and Toby Faletau against the Reds, Warburton is partnered with English blindside flanker Tom Croft and in-form Irish number eight Jamie Heaslip.

“I know Dan and Toby and am very familiar with that trio, but I’m really looking forward to playing with Tom and Jamie,” Warburton said.

“Tom, lineout-wise, is awesome in training and Jamie’s feet in attack have been great with the ball-carrying.”

The Lions pack against the Waratahs also features fellow likely Test starters in locks Alun Wyn Jones and Paul O’Connell, and prop Adam Jones.

Gatland left out Irish star Brian O’Driscoll, saying the 34-year-old veteran needed to be managed ahead of the Test series.

“We didn’t really want him to play more than one game a week and at any stage if his body was a little bit sore, then we’d make sure that we keep him fresh and didn’t tire him out,” he said.

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