British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton stayed in Melbourne to have a scan on his injured hamstring yesterday, making him a grave doubt for next weekend’s deciding third Test against Australia.
The Wales flanker, who will join up with the rest of the squad in Queensland today, was assisted from the field after 68 minutes of the 16-15 defeat by the Wallabies on Saturday night which levelled up the series at 1-1. Warburton gave his best performance of the tour to date in Melbourne to help the Lions win the battle of the breakdown and it was only after he left the field that Australia scored what turned out to be the winning try.
“Coming off in a Test match like that is devastating,” assistant coach Andy Farrell told reporters yesterday. “As a captain, you want to be there for your troops and lead from the front, especially in the dying minutes of the game. He’s disappointed with that, but he’s in good spirits because we have a big week ahead of us with a Test match to win. He’s gone for a scan and will find out the results later.”
The rest of the Lions party flew to Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for rest and recuperation yesterday and will not return to Sydney for Saturday’s decider at the Olympic Stadium until Thursday afternoon.
Farrell said the injury to Warburton was the only one suffered by the Lions in Melbourne and that the players already on the injury list, prop Alex Corbisiero (calf) and Jamie Roberts (hamstring), would return to training on Wednesday.
Warburton said after Saturday’s match that the injury was a new one for him. “I have a sore hamstring. I haven’t done it before – this is a new injury,” he said. “I will do anything I can to play [on Saturday] because if we win next weekend it will be in more dramatic fashion than it would have been this week.”
Lions coach Warren Gatland described his captain’s performance at the breakdown at the Etihad Stadium as “brilliant”.
The Lions do have options should Warburton prove unfit to play in Sydney, with Ireland’s Sean O’Brien able to play both openside and blindside, while Justin Tipuric has been in brilliant form for Wales this year.