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Warburton to lead Lions against Highlanders

Sam Warburton has beaten his ankle injury to be fit to captain the Lions. Credit: PA

Sam Warburton has beaten his ankle injury and will captain the British and Irish Lions against the Highlanders on Tuesday, the team have announced.

The Wales flanker missed the 12-3 win over the Crusaders but has made a full recovery - and now has the chance to prove his form and fitness for the first All Blacks Test on June 24.

Ireland's Jared Payne has shaken off a calf issue to start at full-back, while Wales' Dan Biggar has beaten a head injury to feature at fly-half.

British and Irish Lions team to face the Highlanders on Tuesday:

J Payne (Ireland), J Nowell, J Joseph (both England), R Henshaw (Ireland), T Seymour (Scotland), D Biggar, R Webb (both Wales), J Marler (England), R Best (Ireland), K Sinckler, C Lawes (both England), I Henderson (Ireland), J Haskell (England), S Warburton (Wales, capt), CJ Stander (Ireland).

Replacements: K Owens (Wales), J McGrath (Ireland), D Cole (England), A W Jones, J Tipuric (both Wales), G Laidlaw (Scotland), O Farrell, E Daly (both England).

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Gatland defends Sexton over Lions performance

Sexton struggled in the Lions' opening match. Credit: PA

Warren Gatland has insisted it would be "unfair" to write off Johnny Sexton's challenge for a British and Irish Lions Test shirt after a wretched night in Whangarei.

Ireland fly-half Sexton struggled in the Lions' opening match over the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians, with Owen Farrell stepping off the bench to salvage a 13-7 victory.

The Barbarians led 7-3 at half-time thanks to Sam Anderson-Heather's try, but the Lions scraped home thanks to a late Anthony Watson score initiated by Farrell.

Boss Gatland hailed Saracens talisman Farrell's "big match temperament" in digging the Lions out of a hole - but insisted Sexton can still compete for a Test shirt.

Asked if Sexton's difficult night leaves him trailing Farrell for the Lions' Test number 10 jersey, Gatland replied: "I think that's pretty unfair in making an assessment like that.

"These guys arrived on Wednesday and are still recovering from travel, they haven't got into regular sleep patterns yet. We knew it would be difficult in terms of that.

"Owen Farrell has a big match temperament, there's no doubt.

"I would have been happier of course if he'd knocked over that one he put against the post, that might have given us an easier last 10 minutes.

"But he's played some pretty good rugby in the last 18 months, and he's one of the standout performers in northern hemisphere rugby anyway."

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Wasps 'gobsmacked' by Launchbury's Lions omission

Launchbury missed out on Gatland's Lions squad Credit: PA

Wasps have tweeted their disappointment at Joe Launchbury's omission from the British & Irish Lions squad for this summer's tour of New Zealand.

The forward was not named in Warren Gatland's 41-man squad despite impressing for England in their victorious Six Nations campaign earlier this year.

The Wasps player is yet to comment on being left out, but was quick to praise team-mate Elliot Daly, who made the cut.

Dylan Hartley also misses out and he becomes the third successive England captain not to make the tour, following in the footsteps of Chris Robshaw and Steve Borthwick.

However, the Six Nations champions still supply the largest contingent, numbering 16 players.

Gatland is 'leading contender' to coach Lions

Warren Gatland is the "leading contender" to coach the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand next year says the Lions chief executive.

Wales head coach Gatland was in charge of the Lions' Test series-winning tour of Australia in 2013.

Gatland is widely expected to be in charge of the Lions. Credit: PA

And the New Zealander is widely expected to retain that post for a 10-game New Zealand trip highlighted by three Tests against the world champion All Blacks.

Ireland boss and Gatland's fellow New Zealander Joe Schmidt would also currently be a strong candidate, having overseen two successive Six Nations title triumphs.

But Gatland, who was part of the 2009 Lions coaching staff in South Africa, would appear to be in pole position.

"It would be absolutely ludicrous of me to say that Warren would not be the leading contender - he clearly is," Lions chief executive John Feehan told Sky.

"If he is involved, it will be a third tour for him. He has a record that is pretty much second to none in the northern hemisphere, and so he has to be the leading contender."

Cameron: Lions star' bunny ears prank 'just a bit of fun'

David Cameron has responded to the apology by British and Irish Lions player Manu Tuilagi after making bunny ears behind the Prime Minister's head at a Number 10 reception yesterday:

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