Two-time British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has picked Johnny Sexton ahead of Owen Farrell to start at fly-half in his Lions Test XV.
Joining Lee McKenzie and Sean O’Brien on House of Rugby, the Welshman also picked seven compatriots in his side after their successful Guinness Six Nations.
Warburton opted for the Ireland captain over the England captain at No10, which may not have been the case at the beginning of the Six Nations.
Sexton shone in the final two rounds of the Championship, and though he will be 36 come the Test series, Warburton highlighted “his leadership, his experience,” saying “he’s the one guy I’d want him to steer that ship.”
Meanwhile, Farrell was not helped by England’s poor Six Nations, particularly in his head-to-head battle with Sexton at the Aviva Stadium (although he played most of the game at inside centre).
The 79-cap international did add that he does not mind who starts in the No10 jersey though. He said: “If I was still playing and I was in that Test team and there was Finn Russell, Sexton, Dan Biggar or Owen Farrell all picked at No10, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. I think we’re best at No10, I think it’s the one position I’m not worried about.”
One of the potential causes for England’s form is their large contingent of Saracens players, who are currently deprived of playing at the elite level of domestic and European rugby after their automatic relegation to the Greene King Championship IPA.
It is for that reason why Warburton has only opted for one Saracen in his XV, Maro Itoje, alongside fellow Englishmen Sam Underhill, Tom Curry and Anthony Watson.
Warburton did say, however, that Jamie George may be able to work his way into the Test team ahead of Ken Owens in the warm-up matches.
Sam Warburton’s Lions XV: Stuart Hogg (Scotland); Anthony Watson (England), George North (Wales), Robbie Henshaw (Ireland), Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales); Johnny Sexton (Ireland), Tomos Williams (Wales); Wyn Jones (Wales), Ken Owens (Wales), Tadhg Furlong (Ireland); Maro Itoje (England), Alun Wyn Jones (Wales); Sam Underhill (England), Tom Curry (England), Taulupe Faletau (Wales).
This XV is eye-watering for a second-tier match https://t.co/LTDuVUhWZR
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 9, 2021
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