Sam Warburton back to lead British & Irish Lions in make-or-break second All Blacks test
The Welshman was one of three personnel changes coach Warren Gatland made to the starting side that lost the first test
Sam Warburton will captain the British & Irish Lions in Saturday’s must-win second test against New Zealand in Wellington.
The Welshman was one of three personnel changes coach Warren Gatland made on Thursday to the starting side that lost the first test 30-15, including calling in Johnny Sexton at fly half.
Gatland also picked Maro Itoje to start at lock at the expense of George Kruis, praising his impact off the bench in the first test.
Sexton’s inclusion sees Owen Farrell move to inside centre, forcing Ben Te’o onto the replacements’ bench.
Peter O’Mahony, who captained in the first test, was not even included in the matchday 23 as Gatland called up Warburton and preferred CJ Stander on the bench.
Courtney Lawes was also included in the replacements after a strong performance in the 31-31 draw against the Hurricanes on Tuesday and Jack Nowell replaces Leigh Halfpenny on the bench.
Gatland said he had to make some tough decisions as the Lions seek to level the three-test series.
“We saw Maro’s impact in the first test and he will bring an edge and a physicality, as will Sam Warburton in terms of pressure on the ball,” he said.
“It’s tough on Peter O’Mahony who has done a brilliant job for us. We had to look at the bench and we felt that CJ Stander’s ball-carrying and defence was the right choice for the bench.”
He said the Sexton-Farrell combination in the backline increased the Lions’ attacking arsenal.
“Both have played well and it gives us that attacking option in the 10-12 channel,” he said.
“We created opportunities in the first test and there were a few that we didn’t finish.”
Liam Williams (Scarlets/WAL); Anthony Watson (Bath/ENG), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/WAL), Owen Farrell (Saracens/ENG), Elliot Daly (Wasps/ENG); Johnny Sexton (Leinster/IRL), Conor Murray (Munster/IRL); Taulupe Faletau (Bath/ENG), Sean O’Brien (Leinster/IRL), Sam Warburton (capt, Cardiff/WAL); Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/WAL), Maro Itoje (Saracens/ENG); Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/IRL), Jamie George (Saracens/ENG), Mako Vunipola (Saracens/ ENG)
Replacements: Ken Owens (Scarlets/WAL), Jack McGrath (Leinster/IRL), Kyle Sinckler(Harlequins/ENG), Courtney Lawes (Northampton/ENG), CJ Stander (Munster/IRL), Rhys Webb (Ospreys/WAL), Ben Te’o (Worcester/ENG), Jack Nowell (Exeter/ENG)