Sam Warburton

Rugby union: Warburton 1/2 to be fit for Lions opener

The 2013 captain has suffered an injury setback but is expected to be fit.

Sam Warburton is 1/2 to start in the number seven shirt for the British and Irish Lions in their opening match against New Zealand this summer despite suffering an injury setback.

The Wales and Cardiff Blues flanker is expected to be sidelined for six weeks as he recovers from a knee ligament strain.

Warburton was hurt during the Blues' Guinness PRO12 clash against Ulster last Friday, but Blues head coach Danny Wilson has allayed any fears about the 28-year-old's Lions tour hopes.

Warburton is expected to be named in Lions head coach Warren Gatland's squad next week - and potentially as skipper - for the three-Test trip in June and July.

The 2013 Lions captain, though, is unlikely to play for the Blues again this season unless they reach the European Champions Cup qualification play-off final, which is scheduled for May 27 or 28.

“Sam has a low grade medial strain which will put him out for approximately six weeks, which won't interfere with the Lions,” Wilson said. “He shouldn't have any problem regarding the Lions.”

Warburton will miss the Blues' PRO12 appointment with the Ospreys on Saturday, plus remaining regular season fixtures against Zebre and Newport Gwent Dragons.

If he was to miss the opening Test, Sean O’Brien and Justin Tipuric are the leading candidates to replace him at number seven and are both 9/2 to get the nod. James Haskell (28/1) and Hamish Watson (33/1) could also be in contention.

The Lions are 13/4 to win the series and 3/4 to suffer a 3-0 whitewash.