Henderson,Best and Sexton named in Lions team for tour opener

Sam Warburton will lead the British and Irish Lions in their opening tour match against a Provincial Barbarians XV on Saturday.

The Lions captain is fit to hit the ground running as part of an all-Welsh back row after two months out, while Warren Gatland starts Ireland’s Johnny Sexton at fly-half.

Gatland’s selection takes into account the recent heavy club schedule of some high-profile tourists, and Ken Owens is missing through injury.

But the Lions boss is still able to select two Six Nations skippers in Rory Best and Alun Wyn Jones, while Warburton’s inclusion is welcome after he missed the opening two tour games in 2013.

In the backs, Ben Te’o and Jonathan Joseph, among 14 players who joined the Lions training camp on day one, comprise an English midfield, while Six Nations Player of the Championship Stuart Hogg gets a chance to stake his claim for the No 15 Test jersey.

Scotland’s Tommy Seymour and England’s Anthony Watson are obvious starters on the wings with all other members of the back three involved with their clubs last weekend.

Rory Best training with the Lions.

Gatland said: “We are all hugely excited about the first game on tour, it’s a great opportunity for the starting XV and the whole matchday squad to lay down a marker and get the tour off to a good start.

“We have named a side that showcases a strong combination of experience and youth and we are really looking forward to Saturday.

“We are lucky to have some real leaders in the squad and to be able to select them for this match in the likes of Rory Best, Alun Wyn Jones and Greig Laidlaw. I’m looking forward to seeing what Greig can do alongside Johnny Sexton who both are experienced half-backs.

“It is also great to have Sam starting in the first game of the tour, something he didn’t do in 2013 and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend.

“The balance of the squad is really good, we have selected the majority of players who were together for the training weeks in Wales and Ireland and they have worked together and prepared well for a number of weeks.

“It is important these guys get a run early and lay down a marker for others to follow. We’ve picked the team for Saturday but it is still the plan to try and give the whole squad a start in the next two matches.

“It is important the players get that opportunity, because if they go well and the team goes well, they put themselves in the shop window for a Test start.”

Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Ben Te’o, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 1 Joe Marler, 2 Rory Best, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 5 Iain Henderson, 6 Ross Moriarty, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 8 Taulupe Faletau

Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 George Kruis, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Jared Payne

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