TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Sam Warbrurton returns to lead the Lions against the Highlanders - Ruck

TEAM ANNOUNCEMENT: Sam Warbrurton returns to lead the Lions against the Highlanders

Sam Warburton has beaten his ankle injury and will captain the British and Irish Lions against the Highlanders on Tuesday, the team have announced.

The Wales flanker missed the 12-3 win over the Crusaders but has made a full recovery – and now has the chance to prove his form and fitness for the first All Blacks Test on June 24.

Ireland’s Jared Payne has shaken off a calf issue to start at full-back, while Wales’ Dan Biggar has beaten a head injury to feature at fly-half.

England flanker James Haskell will start against his former club, while Robbie Henshaw and Jonathan Joseph will form an all-new centre pairing.

“At this stage of the tour everyone has had a start and as coaches we are happy that all the players have had a chance to put their hand up and perform in the Lions jersey,” said head coach Warren Gatland.

“Each game is a chance for individuals to shine but more importantly it’s about a collective performance. We are building some momentum and we have improved with every game.

“We were obviously pleased with the win against the Crusaders, especially our defence and game management, but we know the Highlanders will be another massive test for us as a squad.”

Jack Nowell and Tommy Seymour will start on the wings, with both itching to show up well having featured in the patchy tour-opening 13-7 win over the Provincial Barbarians.


England props Joe Marler and Kyle Sinckler will flank Ireland captain Rory Best in the front-row, while Courtney Lawes will pack down at lock with Iain Henderson.

CJ Stander will start at number eight, while Justin Tipuric, Greig Laidlaw, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly all take a seat on the bench.

Jared Payne takes the 15 shirt. (David Davies/PA)
Jared Payne takes the 15 shirt. (David Davies/PA)

Ulster star Payne featuring at full-back offers an intriguing option for boss Gatland. The Kiwi-born defensive specialist is Ireland’s first-choice outside centre, but can also excel in the 15 shirt.

Full-back could potentially remain the Lions’ most open position ahead of the New Zealand Test series.

Stuart Hogg suffered a nasty-looking bang to the face after inadvertently running into Conor Murray’s elbow in the fine win over the Crusaders.

Wales’ Leigh Halfpenny would be the current favourite to start at full-back in the Tests, but Payne could well offer a viable alternative – provided he can finally overcome his niggling calf problem.