Rugby Union

British & Irish Lions captain enjoys Welsh familiarity

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Sam Warburton believes the large Welsh contingent will help him settle into his role as British & Irish Lions captain.

The Cardiff Blues star was picked to skipper the side ahead of Irish veteran Brian O’Driscoll, and is one of 15-Welshman in Warren Gatland’s 37-man touring party.

With Rob Howley also part of the coaching team, the Red Dragon will have a huge presence in Australia, and Warburton believes these factors will help him settle into the role as leader of the Lions.

"His [Gatland's] approach has been very similar. The way he manages players, communicates," the 24-year-old told reporters, according to BBC.

"It makes the transition for me as a Welsh player into the Lions squad a lot easier.

"Working with Warren we have exactly the same relationship as before and that's what he's been picked on, the credentials that he has displayed over the past few years."

Warburton, speaking at the Lions’ current Cardiff training base, went on to reveal that he’s sharing a room with veteran Paul O’Connell, and is hoping to pick up plenty of tips from the Munster legend.

"I'm sharing a room with Paul O'Connell, so he's sharing all of his wisdom which is great," added the Welshman.

"Every decision I made in the Six Nations wasn't based upon the British and Irish Lions, and captaincy and things, it was what was best for myself and the team at the time to make sure I could perform.

"The captaincy people have spoken about for the last 12 months really as well as squad selection, but I've said all along that all you can do is try to concentrate on the present and your own performance.

"Luckily Warren has put faith in me and picked me as captain and I'm absolutely delighted with that."

Despite the heavy Welsh presence, Warburton believes the Lions’ style of play will represent a fine blend from all the nations involved, and that the starting XV will be up for the fight when the first test match arrives on June 22nd.

"We did our first rugby session yesterday afternoon, learning the calls. There's a bit more organisation at this moment in time - new line-outs for everyone - and that's probably going to be the biggest challenge for us, making sure that we're all singing off the same hymn sheet," Warburton concluded.

"We've said before in the press we'll go down there with the intention to play a lot of rugby, but obviously some groundwork is going to have to be done up front.

"It's going to be tough, it always is. You're never, ever going to play the three southern hemisphere sides [Australia, New Zealand and South Africa] without a massive battle, and we found that out last summer as a Wales team.

"So it will have to be a huge effort but one I'm very confident we can do."

The Lions travel to Hong King for a warm-up match against the Barbarians on June 1st, before flying Down Under for the first of nine matches in Oz.

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British & Irish Lions
Rugby Union
Sam Warburton

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