'Incredible, an accolade very few players achieve': Sam Warburton

The Welshman led his country to the World Cup semis in 2011 but has been overshadowed recently by compatriot Justin Tipuric.

Sam warburton poses with a cuddly toy in London.
Sam warburton poses with a cuddly toy in London.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

LIONS CAPTAIN SAM WARBURTON admitted he was told he would be leading the 37-man squad to Australia nine days ago.

The Cardiff Blues and Wales flanker, who ceded the captaincy of his country during the Six Nations, was announced as the man to lead Warren Gatland’s squad, to face the Wallabies, this summer.

He said, “Warren gave me the call a week ago, last Sunday, so about nine days ago. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done to keep quiet. It was eating me alive that I couldn’t tell anybody. [Being named captain] is incredible. It is an accolade that very view players achieve.”

Wales have been beaten in their last eight Test matches against the Wallabies, including a third place playoff at the 2011 World Cup. Warburton insisted that a Lions team with a Welsh spine but ‘the class of the English, Irish and Scottish boys’ could give the tourists their first series win since South Africa in 1997. He added:

The back row was always going to be hard to pick and some big, big players were going to miss out. As Warren alluded to, some six to eight players usually pick up injuries, so you never know. Warren could have picked from between 10 to 12 players and there are still others injured, such as Stephen Ferris.”

Gatland said, “In the last few years, Sam has been the strongest Test captain in the northern hemisphere… If we were to set out to pick a Test side, there is a strong chance that Sam could start each time.”

The New Zealander revealed that there had been seven squad selection meetings in the months preceding the announcement. He said, “There was a robust debate… I know there will be several disappointed players out there.” Ideally, he added, he would have preferred to take everybody.

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Speaking to Sky Sports News, following the announcement, former England player Stuart Barnes suggested that Warburton’s back row colleague Dan Lydiate, despite a long-term injury he has just returned from, was selected as he was one of Gatland’s trusted lieutenants. England captain Chris Robshaw, who missed out, was ‘the unluckiest person in Britain and Ireland today’.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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