British and Irish Lions: Sam Warburton expected to miss tour opener in Hong Kong
Last Updated: 30/05/13 7:07am
Sam Warburton: Is likely to be rested for Hong Kong clash with Barbarians
Lions boss Warren Gatland looks likely to rest captain Sam Warburton for Saturday's tour opener against the Barbarians.
Warburton sat out training in sweltering Hong Kong heat on Wednesday, with Lions assistant coach Rob Howley describing the player's knee as having become "a bit puffy".
With nine games ahead when the Lions arrive in Australia, it appears that no risks will be taken with the Wales flanker's fitness at the Hong Kong Stadium.
Ireland lock Paul O'Connell, the 2009 Lions tour skipper in South Africa, would be favourite to take the reins.
"Sam had a slight bump in training last week, and we just want to give him time before Saturday," Howley said.
"We will assess it over the next 24 hours. The bump was to his knee, it's just a bit puffy, that's all.
"There is a lot of strength in depth within the 37 (squad) players, and the quality we have in the back row is there for all to see."
Gatland will announce his starting line-up on Thursday and Howley said conditions had been tough in their early training sessions, something that could affect his decision making.
Players were cooled down by giant portable fans, and Howley added: "They were much-needed today, I can assure you. It is one of the things our conditioning team are working on to make sure our players are physically right for the game.
"This afternoon's session was only 62 minutes, and we had three or four water breaks. It is important our players are hydrated so they are able to make good decisions.
"It is part and parcel of our training now, over the next few days. That stress, that heat, will certainly benefit us when we go into the Test series. As far as we are concerned, the more stress we're under, the better prepared we will be.
"It is very hot and humid. I am glad I'm not playing! We talk about stress, and the heat here is a big part of that. We've got hydration systematic testing for the players every morning to make sure they are hydrated, and it is something that will benefit the whole squad, particularly the team that plays later on in Australia.
"A lot of Aussie sides use heat as a form of stress in training, instead of altitude, so we will reap the benefit of this weekend even if the players don't feel like that at the time.
"The heat is going to take its toll, but Saturday is about being accurate. The Barbarians are not here to make up the numbers, but our players will be very enthusiastic to get off to a winning start."
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