Rugby

Warburton eager to taste New Zealand blood

2017-04-19 20:11
Sam Warburton (Getty)

London - Sam Warburton has never savoured victory over New Zealand but says he is relishing scaling the "pinnacle of my career" when he captains the British and Irish Lions against the world champions.

The Wales back-row was named skipper when Lions coach Warren Gatland announced a 41-man squad Wednesday for the three-Test series in June and July.

Warburton, the victorious captain during the 2013 2-1 series win in Australia, is just the second man after England great Martin Johnson (1997 and 2001) to lead the Lions on two tours.

But he has yet to enjoy a Test win over New Zealand -- with Wales's last success against the All Blacks coming way back in 1953.

The Lions' lone Test series triumph in New Zealand was in 1971.

Added to that, two of the three Tests this year will be played at Eden Park, where New Zealand have not lost in the professional era -- with the All Blacks reeling off 36 consecutive wins, including a 2011 World Cup final triumph, at their Auckland fortress since 1995.

As for the Lions, their solitary win in 10 Tests at Eden Park was a 9-6 success in 1959.

Eden Park was also the venue where Warburton was sent off for a dangerous tackle during Wales's agonising 9-8 World Cup semi-final loss six years ago.

"New Zealand are the only team I haven't beaten yet in my international career and it's something I'd love to do," said Warburton after the squad was announced.

"People would look at that as a bad thing, but I would never take the field against New Zealand and think, 'Crikey, I haven't beaten these before'," the Cardiff Blues flanker, a veteran of 76 Tests, added.

"You respect them for what they are and you know they've got a fantastic history and win percent ratio, but every time you take that field you've got a chance to win, regardless of who you are or where you are playing."

However, he admitted: "It's going to be the toughest thing I've done. 2013 (winning tour) was amazing, it was all fresh, it was all new.

"But captaining the Lions for a second time and the fact it is in New Zealand, it definitely ranks as the pinnacle of my career so far," added Warburton, who expects to have recovered from a knee injury by the time the squad departs at the end of May.

The Lions may be underdogs but Ireland's 40-29 victory over the All Blacks in Chicago in November proved the world champions are not invincible.

"What was impressive, and when England beat them in 2012, the breakdowns were ferocious," said Warburton.

"They were both extremely brave in their decision-making and you know you are going to have to score tries.

"We are going to have to be slightly more attacking than we are used to (in the Six Nations)."

This season saw Warburton's Wales place called into question amid fierce competition from fellow loose forwards Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau and Ross Moriarty, all of whom have been selected for the Lions by Gatland, the Kiwi on secondment from his role as Wales boss.

Warburton resigned as Wales captain, with lock Alun Wyn Jones leading the side in the Six Nations.

But while the softly spoken Warburton has sometimes appeared a reluctant skipper, he insisted he was in the right frame of mind to lead the Lions again after recovering from a slump in form.

"If I felt I'd only scraped into the squad and they asked me to captain, I would have said I was not in the right frame of mind to do it," he said.

"Because now I do feel I am playing well and I feel very confident about my game, that's why I said yes."

Squad:

Backs

Fullback/wings: Elliot Daly (ENG), Anthony Watson (ENG), Lee Halfpenny (WAL), Liam Williams (WAL), George North (WAL), Stuart Hogg (SCO), Jack Nowell (ENG), Jared Payne (IRL), Tommy Seymour (SCO)

Centres: Ben Te'o (ENG), Jonathan Davies (WAL), Owen Farrell (ENG), Robbie Henshaw (IRL), Jonathan Joseph (ENG)

Flyhalves: Jonathan Sexton (IRL), Dan Biggar (WAL)

Scrumhalves: Conor Murray (IRL), Rhys Webb (WAL), Ben Youngs (ENG)

Forwards

Back row: Taulupe Faletau (WAL), Billy Vunipola (ENG), Sam Warburton (WAL, capt), Sean O'Brien (IRL), CJ Stander (IRL), Ross Moriarty (WAL), Peter O'Mahony (IRL), Justin Tipuric (WAL)

Locks: Maro Itoje (ENG), Alun Wyn Jones (WAL), Iain Henderson (IRL), George Kruis (ENG), Courtney Lawes (ENG)

Tighthead props: Tadhg Furlong (IRL), Dan Cole (ENG), Kyle Sinckler (ENG)

Hookers: Jamie George (ENG), Rory Best (IRL), Ken Owens (WAL)

Loosehead props: Mako Vunipola (ENG), Joe Marler (ENG), Jack McGrath (IRL)

NEXT ON SPORT24X

What To Read Next

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Live Video Streaming
Video Highlights
Sport Talk

 
 
Men
Women
Love 2 Meet
English Premiership flutter

Take Sport24's "expert" tips at your peril...

Sport24 on Twitter

Follow Sport24 news on Twitter

Featured

With the Absa Premiership in full swing, who will be crowned champions when all is said and done? Will Mamelodi Sundowns defend their title? Or can Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates or Bidvest Wits mount a serious challenge? Stay glued to Sport24 to find out!

Latest blogs
Vote

Who would you like to see Springbok coach Allister Coetzee name as his skipper for the upcoming France Test series?

Twitter Follow Sport24 on Twitter

Facebook "Like" Sport24's Facebook page

WIN Enter and win with Sport24!

BlackBerry Stay in the loop on your BlackBerry

RSS Feeds Sport news delivered really simply.

 
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.