Lions captain Warburton should be available for tour opener

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) " British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton should be available for the New Zealand tour opener in less than three weeks, assistant coach Graham Rowntree said on Monday.

Warburton has been out of action for more than a month because of a left knee ligament injury. The flanker met with 13 teammates on Monday, though he didn't train with them.

"He is on a modified load, as you would expect for a guy coming back from injury, but he is going to be fine," Rowntree said.

Warburton could make his playing return on Friday for Cardiff Blues against Stade Francais in the European Rugby Champions Cup qualification playoff in Paris.

The rest of the 41-man Lions squad was involved in playoffs for the English Premiership and Pro12.

"Guys are away in other competitions, which is great," Rowntree said, "because we want them on the plane going to New Zealand battle-hardened, playing in finals, preferably."

The Lions' 10-match tour begins on June 3 against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians in Whangarei.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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