Gatland wants Warburton to sit out play-off

Date published: May 15 2017

Lions coach Warren Gatland is hopeful that Sam Warburton will sit out Cardiff's play-off against Stade Français in Paris on Friday.

The reason being that Gatland wants his star man and captain to be well-rested ahead of what will be a gruelling tour to New Zealand.

Warburton suffered knee ligament damage playing for the Blues against Ulster in early April. If they win against the French side on Friday, there is the prospect of a final seven days later which could exert Warburton even more.

The Lions' squad departs on May 29 for New Zealand with their first game taking place only three days later.

“It would be ideal for us if he didn’t play for the Blues,” Gatland told The Telegraph, eager for Warburton to prove his match fitness in New Zealand.

“Sam thinks he is ok at the moment. The plan is that he will stay with us and do some hard conditioning work with contact as well.”

Meanwhile, Gatland has taken issue with talk that his side's only way of beating the Kiwis is by employing an old-fashioned style of
rugby.

“I find it interesting that people think that,” said Gatland, who does not intend to reveal his full hand of tactics and ploys until the first test.

“There is some real talent in our side, real skill and footwork and genuine pace. From the skill point of view this is the best team I have put together for a long, long time. It is a lot stronger than 2009 and 2013.

"It definitely will not be a case of picking the biggest and ugliest brutes to try to beat New Zealand into submission. The last few weeks we have been refining the calling system, structures and patterns as well.

"The key thing is making sure you keep some things up your sleeve and you are not showing too much. Something has to be a surprise. The first test is everything.”