Sam Warburton’s selection as British and Irish Lions captain was thrown into serious doubt on Tuesday after Cardiff Blues revealed the flanker would miss the next six weeks with a knee injury.
The former Wales captain, who was replaced by fellow Lions candidate Alun Wyn Jones as skipper before the Six Nations, limped out of the Blues’ Pro12 game with Ulster on April 7, with the region since confirming it is a medial knee injury.
Warburton is expected to be out of the rest of the domestic season but he is still thought to be fit in time for the tour to New Zealand in June.
However, confirming the news, Blues coach Danny Wilson revealed that he hoped the 28-year-old would be available for the Champions Cup play-off final on May 26th, three days before the Lions depart for New Zealand.
“Sam has a low grade medial strain which will put him out for approximately six weeks,” he said.
“It won’t interfere with the Lions.
“If we were fortunate enough to make the second European play-off game, we would envisage him being available for that.
“So he shouldn’t have any problems regarding the Lions.
“You see players who get back quickly if they follow protocol through religiously and get a bit of luck and I am sure that will be the case with Sam, knowing how diligent he will be.
“We will see then, all being well, how quickly he can get back.
“It was low grade and that was the important bit.
“Sam is very experienced and a good pro. He knows his body and knows if he works hard to get that right he will be back relatively quickly.
“He has been fine today. I think it’s relatively good news considering how it could have been.”
Warburton returned to his best form during the Six Nations which shot him to the front of the queue for the captaincy, despite changing position from openside flanker to blindside.
Head coach Warren Gatland names his tour party of April 19th, with Warburton expected to be named as captain for the second consecutive tour although the injury could put that in doubt.
Gatland has said previously it is not integral that his captain starts all the Tests but has made it clear he would not travel with any unfit players, given the rigorous tour schedule.