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Warburton raring to go

Sam Warburton will make his debut as British and Irish Lions captain on Saturday with every intention to "aim for the stars".

Warburton, the first Welshman named as tour skipper since Phil Bennett 36 years ago, takes charge for the Suncorp Stadium appointment with Queensland Reds. Having missed opening victories over the Barbarians and Western Force for precautionary purposes while a puffy knee settled down, he is now raring to go, accompanied by his renowned high standards.

"Andy Irvine, our tour manager, set the bar high for us and said there's never been a Lions tour where they have won every match," Warburton said.

"I love that. You've got to aim for the stars, so that will be the goal. It might sound a bit disrespectful saying 'go through undefeated', but I remember an old PE teacher told me if you aim much higher than you initially would have, even if you still fall short you will have achieved more than you might have initially thought.

"So that is my thought process behind it all. Australia are a top-class side, and I have found that out the hard way over the last few years. It is just a goal - you have got to aim for it."

Flanker Warburton watched from the sidelines while the Lions ran riot against the Barbarians and Western Force, scoring a total of 128 points and 17 tries. And the competition for back-row places remains intensely fierce, especially as Warburton is now entering the selection mix.

His fellow Wales international openside Justin Tipuric starred against the Barbarians, then Sean O'Brien delivered an outstanding display as the Force were crushed, so Warburton is under no illusions.

"Every player was told that they were going to get a start. Others have been waiting just like me," he added. "I have been in this position in the Six Nations when you've got to sit out a couple of games. I am pretty used to that.

"The back row was always going to be one of the strongest positions. I first thought 'flipping heck, that's strong, look who is not there - Chris Robshaw, Stephen Ferris, if fit, Kelly Brown'. So it was always going to be a tough ask to play for the Lions in the back row.

"I definitely have to fight as hard as anyone. I was honest with Warren (Lions head coach Warren Gatland) and said what I don't like about captaincy is you don't want to become complacent and know you've got a starting place."


From Belfast Telegraph