Thursday 19 October 2017

Lions captain Sam Warburton: I was expecting extra-time at end of drawn Test

British and Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton has revealed he was "ready for 20 minutes of extra-time" at the dramatic third Test conclusion against world champions New Zealand.

And Warburton admitted it would have been good to see a winner after the Eden Park clash ended 15-15 and resulted in a first drawn Lions Test series since 1955.

"I was expecting to go again," said Warburton, after Owen Farrell's 78th-minute penalty tied things up.

"I didn't actually realise it was a drawn series. I was ready for 20 minutes of extra-time.

"I was trying to drink as many electrolytes as I could because I was cramping up, but then I realised everyone was shaking hands and I thought: 'Oh, it's a drawn series.'

"You never think it is going to go down to that situation, so I never looked into what would potentially happen.

"If I had to, I would probably have tossed a coin and gone for the win, with extra-time or a golden point or something. I think it would have made for an amazing climax. I think it would be nice to see a winner.

"Obviously, as players, you always want to win, but I guess we have done the Lions jersey proud and I am sure people will be looking forward to the next tour in four years' time.

"It's a little bit cheesy, I guess, but rugby was the winner. People make up rivalries but we know these players.

"I played against them (All Blacks) in three Tests (for Wales) last year, three Tests this year. We chat quite a lot and they are all top blokes, real nice guys.

"It was really enjoyable on the pitch. You have a bit of niggle sometimes but most of the time you are helping each other off the floor and we've got a lot of respect for each other, so there is a lot of good friendships between the two dressing rooms."

Despite the overall success of their New Zealand tour, debate and speculation about the Lions' future will continue to rage in some quarters.

But Wales star Warburton, who has now led the Lions to unbeaten Test series performances in Australia and New Zealand, has no doubt where the best of British and Irish belong in rugby union's bigger picture.

"Speaking on behalf of the players, we would always want the Lions to happen," he said.

"I am sure most players would say the Lions is the most special thing you will do in your international career. I think it's a must that the Lions should continue.

"With the schedule, I was never daunted by it because we had a big squad of quality players.

"If we can come to New Zealand and achieve what we have achieved against some of the best club sides in the world, then we should be confident we can go anywhere and achieve that.

"I think we've proved the tour can work on the current schedule. It does make it difficult and obviously the odds were stacked against us, but at least we know it can work in future.

"I know there are things that are over my head when it comes to the finances and the politics of it, but from a playing perspective I would like to give my opinion."

Warburton also paid tribute to Lions goalkicker Farrell, whose late penalties won the second Test in Wellington and secured a draw at Eden Park.

"These last two games in particular he has been brilliant from the boot. That takes a lot of courage to do that," Warburton said.

"You can just tell he has got nerves of steel and you know he is going to bang it over.

"Out of all the guys I've played with, there are certain guys you would like to be in the trenches with when the chips are down. He is definitely one of those guys."

As for whether Warburton will be around for a possible third successive Lions tour in South Africa four years from now, the 28-year-old added: "Crikey, I don't know if I will be playing then.

"I have got three more years on a national dual contract with Cardiff Blues. I would love to try and get to the next World Cup and then, depending on how my body feels, I will come to a crossroads at that point and see what I will do.

"It's probably a bit of a long stretch to try and make the next Lions tour. I would want to make sure that physically I was at my best."

Reflecting on the series before the Lions depart for home on Tuesday, he said: "People ask me about pressure. I read a great quote from Michael Johnson which stuck with me.

"He said 'pressure is just the shadow of great opportunity'. That's how I see it. Don't be afraid of what you could lose. Be excited about what you could achieve."

Press Association

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport