Refs respect Warburton: Gatland

2013-05-05 17:50
Sam Warburton (AFP)

London - British and Irish Lions head coach Warren Gatland says Sam Warburton's good rapport with referees was an important factor in his decision to hand the Welshman the captaincy.

Gatland was impressed with a conversation that Warburton had with match official Steve Walsh during Wales' decisive Six Nations encounter with England earlier this year.

The New Zealander also highlighted the strength of Warburton's relationship with South African referee Craig Joubert, who will take charge of the Lions' second Test against Australia in June 29.

"There are only two or three players in the world that referees would allow to (talk to them)," Gatland told the Sunday Telegraph.

"It's the ability Sam has to communicate with referees and when I saw that against England, it really stuck in my mind that this guy could do a job for us and potentially have a positive influence on the game with his relationship with referees.

"I think Craig has got a really good relationship with Sam. Having spoken to Craig, I know that he regards Sam as one of the best sevens in the world.

"He regards him on a par with (Richie) McCaw and (David) Pocock in terms of the way he is at the breakdown, his physicality and the way he carries.

"So when a referee makes these comments to you in terms of enjoying his leadership and saying that he's got a good rapport with him, it makes it a kind of easy decision for me to make in terms of appointing him as captain."


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