MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The British and Irish Lions will line up for the series-deciding third test against Australia without captain Sam Warburton, who was ruled out of the Sydney showdown at the weekend with a “significant” hamstring tear.
The 24-year-old Welsh loose forward sustained the injury late in Saturday’s 16-15 second test defeat in Melbourne, as the Wallabies levelled up the series at 1-1 after the Lions had won the opener in Brisbane.
“The British & Irish Lions confirmed today that captain Sam Warburton would play no further part in the tour after suffering an injury during the second test,” the Lions said on their official Twitter feed on Monday.
“He will remain with the tour party for the third test in Sydney on Saturday.”
Warburton, who was assisted from the field after 68 minutes, gave his best performance on the tour to date as he helped the Lions gain a vital edge at the breakdown against the Wallabies.
The hosts scored the only try of the match after Warburton left the field to overturn a 15-9 deficit with a converted Adam Ashley-Cooper effort in the 75th minute.
“It is incredibly disappointing to be ruled out of the tour through injury as we head to Sydney for the deciding match,” Warburton said.
“I wish the team all the best and hope I can play some part in the build up this week. I am confident that the boys can finish the job off and secure the series win.”
Veteran Irish centre Brian O‘Driscoll, if selected, will be the favourite to lead the Lions in the absence of Warburton and former tour skipper and lock Paul O‘Connell, who broke his arm during the first test in Brisbane.
Lions coach Warren Gatland will also have plenty of options to choose from for Warburton’s replacement with Ireland’s Sean O‘Brien able to play both openside and blindside, while Justin Tipuric has been in brilliant form for Wales this year.
Australia captain James Horwill might also have to watch the contest from the sidelines after the International Rugby Board (IRB) controversially appealed against the decision to absolve him of a stamping charge during the first test.
Although he was initially cleared of stamping on Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones by a judicial officer last week, Horwill must face a second hearing on Monday after the IRB re-opened the case.
The Lions are looking for their first series win since 1997.
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien