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Warburton returns to captain Lions v Highlanders

25 June 2017

As hard as this is for me, a former Crusader, to say, I think the Lions' victory was a good thing for the tour.

"It feels it's audition time for the Test series".

Following the much-needed and morale-boosting win over the Crusaders, the British and Irish Lions are in Dunedin to face the Highlanders - Super Rugby champions as recently as 2015.

Defensively, it was a huge shift for the players, with the Crusaders held scoreless for the first time in 38 games.

With cover already deep on either flank and with Ross Moriarty also in the mix, though now sidelined with a back strain, it is certainly valid to consider Warburton's inclusion as a possible weakening of the side. Replacements: Anthony Watson (England) for Hogg (21 mins), Johnny Sexton (Leinster, Ireland) for Davies (29 mins), CJ Stander (Munster, Ireland) for O'Brien (57 mins), Jack McGrath (Leinster, Ireland) for Vunipola, Maro Itoje (England) for Kruis (both 60 mins), Ken Owens (Wales) for George, Dan Cole (England) for Furlong (both 67 mins).

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"We can be pleased with our defence but we probably have to be a bit more clinical with some of those line breaks, particularly when we get in the 22", he said.

"We're so desperate to have a good tour and we're only a fraction away from being three out of three", Warburton said.

"Every system that you have - whether it be attack or defence - is going to be adjusted to the quality of player that you've got", said Farrell.

However, the All Blacks have released fly-half Lima Sopoaga and unsafe winger Waisake Naholo back to the franchise for their showcase against the Lions. "I'm desperate to get another win and kick on again so the confidence can grow".

Lions Coach Warren Gatland was happy with the performance, speaking after the game he said....

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If he comes through in Dunedin, Warburton will be in the first of those two categories.

Biggar feels he now trails Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell in the fly-half race - but coach Andy Farrell believes the Ospreys man has been too hard on himself. The business end of the tour is fast approaching. There are things we did, a few slip-ups or turnovers that the All Blacks would finish off. You've got to be able to do everything, but you've got to bring a specialist element and I guess my one specialist element is the contact area.

They will also be bolstered by the inclusion of three All Blacks with hooker Liam Coltman, flyhalf Lima Sopoaga and winger Waisake Naholo all included in coach Tony Brown's side for the clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The British and Irish Lions ignited their tour of New Zealand by ruthlessly ruining the Crusaders' ideal season with a 12-3 victory.

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The Crusaders appeared to be annoyed with referee Mathieu Raynal's handling of the scrum engagement laws, but Gatland rejected those concerns and insisted the Lions have prepared to cope with every style of officiating.

Warburton returns to captain Lions v Highlanders