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Warburton nearing fitness as Lions build towards first test

Sam Warburton breaks through to score his side's third try during the tour. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire/PA Images

Andy Farrell believes Sam Warburton is "battle-hardened" and improving day by day as the British and Irish Lions captain inches towards the Test match squad.

The Lions have left Warburton out of Tuesday's squad to face the Chiefs in Hamilton however, and now he is edging ever closer to a spot in Saturday's line-up for the first All Blacks Test.

Peter O'Mahony, Sean O'Brien and Taulupe Faletau have excelled as a back-row combination, but Cardiff star Warburton could yet even squeeze into the first Test starting XV.

Sam by his own account will tell you that he might have been a little rusty at the start, but he's getting better and better every day. His body's in good condition, and he's battle-hardened like the rest of them.

– Andy Farrell, Lions Assistant Coach

Leigh Halfpenny is continuing through return-to-play protocols after a suspected head injury but Lions assistant coach Farrell believes the Wales full-back remains on course to face New Zealand on Saturday.

Fly-half Owen Farrell is now expected to be fit after a thigh concern too, leaving the Lions approaching full strength for the Test series opener.

We don't see too much of a problem with that for Leigh, it's just the process we have to go through. And Owen seems to be all good, that seems to have settled down.The boys who aren't playing the Chiefs will have a light hit-out today an orientation day for the rest of the week, and Owen seems fine enough to take part in that.

– Andy Farrell, Lions Assistant Coach

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