Ireland’s win in Chicago has ignited belief: Warburton
Reappointed British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has revealed he was waiting for his wife to finish her shopping when he received the call from head coach Warren Gatland.
The 28-year-old Cardiff flanker will lead the Lions in New Zealand this summer and becomes the second player to be named skipper for two Lions tours, following England World Cup winner Martin Johnson.
The announcement comes four years after Warburton captained the Lions in Australia.
“I found out last Thursday,” Warburton said. “I was in a supermarket car park back home. My wife was just in the shop getting some bread and milk.
“I didn’t want to go in because there is a cashier there who always wants to talk about rugby.
“I actually hung up on Gats (Gatland) first of all when I got the call. I thought it was one of the boys messing with me. They had been messing with me for days. But then I spoke to Gats, and he asked me.”
Warburton opted to give up the Wales captaincy ahead of this year’s Six Nations to concentrate on improving his form but he said there was no hesitation in accepting the role for the Lions.
“I said yes straight away,” Warburton said. “I have to feel I deserve my place in the Lions team. If I thought I was only scraping it I would have said I don’t think I’m the right person.”
The Lions’ last tour to New Zealand in 2005 ended in a 3-0 defeat but Warburton pointed to Ireland’s momentous 40-29 win in Chicago last year as evidence they can be beaten.
“It was good from a fans’ perspective,” Warburton said. “They will still think it’s difficult to win but the fact Ireland won ignited belief in the fans and creates a more positive vibe.
“We have a very good chance of success out there.”
The 41 men ready to tackle the All Blacks
STUART HOGG (Scotland)
Verdict: Capable of testing any defence.
LEIGH HALFPENNY (Wales)
Verdict: Goal-kicking ace and a hero of 2013.
JARED PAYNE (Ireland)
Verdict: New Zealand-born back will get chance to prove his worth on home soil.
ANTHONY WATSON (England)
Verdict: Strong aerial threat and a lethal finisher.
ELLIOT DALY (England)
Verdict: Searing pace and a good eye for the line.
GEORGE NORTH (Wales)
Verdict: Bulldozing wing with a proven Lions pedigree.
LIAM WILLIAMS (Wales)
Verdict: Will travel to New Zealand as the Lions’ form wing.
JACK NOWELL (England)
Verdict: A devilish turn of speed with an eye for a try.
TOMMY SEYMOUR (Scotland)
Verdict: Glasgow star has the form to do damage in New Zealand.
ROBBIE HENSHAW (Ireland)
Verdict: Powerful carrier who offers options at inside and outside centre.
JONATHAN JOSEPH (England)
Verdict: Lightning-fast runner with dancing feet and robust defender.
JONATHAN DAVIES (Wales)
Verdict: A muscular presence at outside centre and proven Lion.
BEN TE’O (England)
Verdict: Strong carrier who will get the Lions over the gainline.
OWEN FARRELL (England)
Verdict: World-class playmaker and goal-kicker who is a Test certainty.
JONATHAN SEXTON (Ireland)
Verdict: Travels to New Zealand as the Lions’ conductor-in-chief. Brave, skilful and bright.
DAN BIGGAR (Wales)
Verdict: A dependable playmaker and fierce competitor.
BEN YOUNGS (England)
Verdict: Strong all-round skill-set and in possession of an outrageous dummy.
CONOR MURRAY (Ireland)
Verdict: Outstanding half-back general whose game management is impeccable.
RHYS WEBB (Wales)
Verdict: Rapid and combative scrum-half who emerged as a star of the Six Nations.
MAKO VUNIPOLA (England)
Verdict: Has developed into an outstanding all-round forward. Consistent.
JACK McGRATH (Ireland)
Verdict: An integral part of Ireland’s success under head coach Joe Schmidt. High work rate.
JOE MARLER (England)
Verdict: Had some disciplinary issues in past, but a tough, no-nonsense operator.
DAN COLE (England)
Verdict: Involved in all three Tests on the last Lions tour, and is a model of consistency.
TADHG FURLONG (Ireland)
Verdict: One of Ireland’s great discoveries in recent seasons, he is a world-class scrummager.
KYLE SINCKLER (England)
Verdict: England’s tighthead understudy to Cole, he looks made for Test rugby.
RORY BEST (Ireland)
Verdict: Led Ireland to a famous victory over New Zealand earlier this season, and is vastly experienced.
KEN OWENS (Wales)
Verdict: Waited patiently for his Wales chance, but now among their most consistent performers.
JAMIE GEORGE (England)
Verdict: England’s back-up to Hartley, who always makes an impact when he features off the bench.
ALUN WYN JONES (Wales)
Verdict: Captained the Lions to a Test series-clinching win in Australia four years ago, and remains at the peak of his powers.
MARO ITOJE (England)
Verdict: Current European player of the year who has made a rapid rise through the ranks.
COURTNEY LAWES (England)
Verdict: Has hit peak form this season. A tough, uncompromising player with skills to match.
GEORGE KRUIS (England)
Verdict: Experienced an injury-hit season, but a brilliant lineout operator and tactician.
IAIN HENDERSON (Ireland)
Verdict: A tough competitor who has performed well for club and country.
CJ STANDER (Ireland)
Verdict: South Africa-born forward who qualified for Ireland on residency, he has looked a natural at Test level.
PETER O’MAHONY (Ireland)
Verdict: Has an ability to sway games his team’s way. Fearless and tireless performer.
SEAN O’BRIEN (Ireland)
Verdict: Had his share of injuries, but few better operators than the Leinster forward when in peak form.
SAM WARBURTON (Wales)
Verdict: The 2013 Lions tour captain in Australia, he has gone from strength to strength.
JUSTIN TIPURIC (Wales)
Verdict: Quick, elusive, highly-skilled and effective at the breakdown. What is there not to like?
ROSS MORIARTY (Wales)
Verdict: A surprise inclusion but the rookie has all the ingredients to succeed.
TAULUPE FALETAU (Wales)
Verdict: The complete package. Powerful, quick and a brilliant ball-carrier, one of the best back-row players around.
BILLY VUNIPOLA (England)
Verdict: Very difficult to stop when on the charge. An all-action presence who could be a Lions game-breaker.