Sam Warburton is set to be named Lions captain for the second tour running on Thursday (NZT) when Warren Gatland is expected to put his leadership faith in the injured Wales flanker.

Warburton, 28, suffered a 'low-grade medial ligament strain' playing for Cardiff Blues against Ulster nine days ago and is only expected to have one game to prove his fitness before the squad departs for New Zealand at the end of May.

Despite the injury, Warburton remains overwhelming favourite to be handed the captaincy reins after leading the Lions to a series win in Australia in 2015, when a hamstring tear also saw him miss the third and deciding Test in Sydney.

England captain Dylan Hartley's chances of being named in Gatland's squad remain slim, with his international understudy Jamie George expected to be named as one of three hookers along with Wales No2 Ken Owens and Ireland skipper Rory Best.


George's form has been exceptional and he has routinely impressed as a second-half replacement for Hartley, whose season has again been chequered by injury and suspension.

The pair go head-to-head in the Aviva Premiership clash between Northampton and Saracens today when an impressive performance by Hartley could yet tip the scales in favour of the 31-year-old.