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Warburton can be new McCaw - Irvine

British and Irish Lions manager Andy Irvine has hailed Wales captain Sam Warburton as "the northern hemisphere's Richie McCaw".

Warburton underlined his credentials to lead the Lions in Australia next year by spearheading Wales' first Triple Crown triumph since 2008.

"I thought Warburton was outstanding, especially for a guy who has been out injured recently," Irvine said. "He was brilliant, with his defensive work and how clever he is at the breakdown. He is the northern hemisphere's Richie McCaw."

Wales' 19-12 victory over England at Twickenham means they are in pole position to win the RBS 6 Nations title race next month, with their final two games both at home against Italy and France.

And 23-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker Warburton appears an overwhelming favourite to land one of rugby's most coveted jobs for a tour highlighted by three Tests against the Wallabies.

Wales coach Warren Gatland is a clear favourite to run the Lions playing operation Down Under, but although Irvine would not comment on intense speculation surrounding the New Zealander, he left London enthused after a gripping encounter when several players put their hands up as potential Lions.

"It took a hell of a performance from Wales in the end to win it, so credit to both sides," he added.

"That is a huge Welsh back division, but what I like about them is they are good rugby players. Sometimes, big men tend to be a wee bit slow, but not these guys.

"I thought George North was absolutely outstanding, he hardly made a mistake. He has got movement and a lot of class, and at the other end of the spectrum Leigh Halfpenny was a revelation.

"He makes a lot of the right decisions, he's quick and is a good all-round rugby player. It was a huge physical contest, the collisions were really intense."

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