Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Warburton earns Johnson comparison

Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions this summer
Sam Warburton will captain the British and Irish Lions this summer

Sam Warburton was hailed as a leader in the mould of Martin Johnson after he was appointed captain of the 2013 British and Irish Lions.

The high praise came from assistant coach Neil Jenkins, who was a member of the 1997 Lions squad that Johnson captained to a series win against South Africa, the last victorious tour.

Warburton will lead a 37-man squad on a 10-match tour of Hong Kong and Australia this summer, culminating in a three-Test series against the Wallabies. And Jenkins said: "He most definitely reminds me a lot of Johnno in terms of the way he plays and goes about things."

He added: "The people who did the most talking in 1997 were probably Lawrence Dallaglio and Scott Gibbs. You followed Johnno for how he played the game, an incredible player and Sam reminds me of Johnno in that regard and the way he goes about his captaincy."

Warburton captained Wales to the semi-finals of the 2011 World Cup and then to Grand Slam glory in 2012.

After being injured for the start of this season's Six Nations, Warburton starred in the victories over Scotland and England as Wales retained the title.

Warburton and Wales' interim head coach Rob Howley agreed at the time that Ryan Jones should continue as captain for the remainder of the championship, following the impressive job that he had done.

But Howley, also the Lions backs coach, insisted Warburton is the right man to lead the squad Down Under.

"The two situations are different," Howley said. "The scenario for us with Wales was that Sam had been out with an injury. We never questioned Sam's captaincy ability. It was a case of suiting Wales at that time and suiting Sam.

"Sam Warburton is a fantastic captain, he has integrity, he leads from the front and he deserves this accolade. He has a very good working relationship with Warren Gatland. That is key. I am delighted for him. I think he will do a fantastic job."

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